BP did not specify how it intends to reach its 2050 targets to get carbon emissions from its operations and barrels produced to net zero and halve the carbon intensity of all products it sells, such as diesel or petrol.
Smaller Spanish rival Repsol REP.MC has set more ambitious net zero carbon targets for the oil products it sells, at a cost of more than $5 billion, but the huge scale of its operations now puts BP's aims at the vanguard in oil and gas.
BP has tried reinventing itself before. A pioneering plan to build a large renewables business in the early 2000s ended with huge losses.
Since then, the world's top oil and gas companies have come under heavy pressure from investors and climate activists to meet the 2015 Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
"The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero. We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner," Looney added.
Shares in BP were up 1% at 1157 GMT, slightly higher than the broader European energy sector index after Wednesday's announcement, which confirmed a Reuters report from January.
BP's absolute net zero carbon target relates to every barrel it produces, based on its equity stake in oil and gas fields, from the well to the petrol station. It does not encompass oil products which BP markets but does not produce itself.
This is a uniquely structured target for oil majors, which, apart from Repsol, have not set any absolute reduction targets for any of its Scope 3 emissions.
BP produced around 2.64 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2019. The group said it would reduce its emissions to net zero from around 415 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.
BP did not provide any details, but a spokesman said near-term plans would be published by a September investor day.
One way a heavy carbon emitter can reach greenhouse gas reduction targets is by buying offset certificates.
U.S. groups such as Exxon, Chevron CVX.N and ConocoPhillips are far less ambitious with their greenhouse gas related targets than their European rivals.
Intensity-based targets measure the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of energy or barrel of oil and gas produced. That means that absolute emissions can rise with growing production, even if the headline intensity metric falls.
Scope 3 emissions vastly exceed greenhouse gases caused by the production of crude oil, natural gas and refined products, including electricity generation, typically by a factor of about six among oil majors, according to Reuters calculations.
Greenpeace said BP's plan left many questions unanswered.
"How will they reach net zero Will it be through offsetting When will they stop wasting billions on drilling for new oil and gas we can't burn," Charlie Kronick, Oil Advisor from Greenpeace UK, said.
BP said it will set "new expectations" for its relationships with trade organisations and be prepared to quit them if they were not aligned.
Last year BP invested around $500 million in low-carbon technologies including wind power, electric vehicle battery charging systems and solar power firm Lightsource BP. That compared to an overall budget of $15.2 billion in 2019.
In one of its biggest changes, BP will dismantle the traditional model of an oil and gas production, or upstream, unit and a refining, trading and marketing, or downstream, unit.
"In order to keep up with rapidly-evolving customer demands and society’s expectations, we need to become more integrated and more focused," Looney said.
A production and operations unit, which include oil and gas production as well as refining and chemicals, will be led by Gordon Birrell.
Customers and products will be led by Emma Delaney, gas and low carbon energy by Dev Sanyal, while innovation and engineering will be led by David Eyton.
(Editing by Louise Heavens and Alexander Smith) ((Shadia.Nasralla@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 5083; +44 778 99 43141; Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))