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Will the BP share price continue to climb?

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A plant pipetrack at BP's Hull Petrochemicals site
Image: BP

The BP (LSE:BP) share price has begun a recovery over the past few months. Since November, the stock has moved up over 50%. Yet, despite this progress, it remains basically flat compared to 12 months ago. And BP is still far from returning to pre-pandemic levels.

I remain confident that the company is capable of making a complete recovery over the long term. But recent environmental developments may impede that progress. Let’s take a look at what’s happened. And the effects this could have on the BP share price.

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The battle against carbon emissions

It’s no secret that the oil industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. And with retail investors becoming more environmentally aware, along with the ESG movement gaining a lot of traction, businesses like BP are starting to feel the pressure to actively reduce their carbon emissions.

Most oil giants have unveiled plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, it seems many people remain unhappy with the slow progress. Shareholders in Chevron recently voted in favour of increasing emission cuts, despite a target of 40% reduction already being set for 2028. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil lost two directors due to a small group of activist investors unhappy with progress in eliminating its carbon footprint. And Royal Dutch Shell just received a court order to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.

Clearly, the oil giants have to start adapting. BP and its share price is relatively unscathed in this recent wave of environmental activism. But that may not be so for long, although BP has been heavily investing in transitioning to renewable energy, more so than some rivals.

As it stands, the company is aiming for a 40% reduction of its oil & gas portfolio by 2030, making up the difference with renewable technologies. The plan is to ramp up its investments in solar, wind, bio, and hydrogen energy solutions to generate 20GW of electricity by 2025 and 50GW before the end of the decade. That’s roughly enough to power 15 million homes.

Will it achieve that goal? Only time will tell. But given that it just acquired a pipeline of US solar farms capable of generating 9GW, I think it’s fair to say the company might be on target.

The BP share price has its risks

What a green transition means for the BP share price

The reduction of its carbon footprint will undoubtedly lower the risk of any expensive legal and regulatory proceedings regarding emissions. But beyond the business saving money, it also allows the management team to focus on operations rather than legal battles.

Unfortunately, it also creates headaches. While the cost of renewable energy technology has fallen drastically over the past decade, it remains relatively expensive. The profitability of these technologies is well below that of oil, especially now that prices are again around $70 per barrel. So operational cash flows may become significantly impacted.

If this were to happen, the BP share price could be adversely affected, as could its dividend yield. But I believe it’s a short-term problem. There remain plenty of risks ahead during this energy transition. Yet I think the BP share price is still more than capable of returning to its pre-pandemic levels and growing beyond, even as a green energy company. I think the stock will continue to climb over the long term and would consider adding it to my income portfolio.

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Zaven Boyrazian has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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