Oil and gas companies are increasingly using mergers and acquisitions to offload emissions from their own balance sheets as a way to meet corporate climate targets without actually reducing emissions, according to a report released Tuesday by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Examining mergers and acquisitions between 2017 and 2021, EDF found 155 deals totaling $84.6 billion that resulted in assets moving away from companies with net-zero pledges, and 211 deals worth $115.6 billion from companies with stated goals to reduce methane emissions. In total, deals involving “reduced-environmental-commitment transfers” rose from 10% in 2018 to 15% in 2021. For example, weekly flaring at the Umuechem oil field in Nigeria went from a max of 2 million cubic feet of flaring climate warming methane per week in 2020, to a near-overnight jump to 10 million after it was sold to a private equity firm, a 700 percent increase.

“You can move your assets to another company, and move the emissions off your own books, but that doesn’t equal any positive impact on the planet if it’s done without any safeguards in place,” Andrew Baxter, director of energy transition at EDF told the New York Times. (New York Times $, ReutersFinancial Times)