“A great deception”: Oil giants held accountable for “greenwash” advertising | Oil and gas companies
According to files released by environmental attorneys ClientEarth, some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have used advertisements to “wash green” their ongoing contribution to the climate crisis. You describe the practice as “a great delusion”.
The files compare the advertisements produced by ExxonMobil, Aramco, Chevron, Shell, Equinor and others with the companies’ activities and products, the overall climate impact and progress towards more climate-proof business models.
ClientEarth urges policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they include tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global warming to people and the planet.
Her lawyers filed a complaint in 2019 alleging that BP’s advertising campaigns misled the public by focusing on the company’s low-carbon energy products when oil and gas accounted for more than 96% of its annual spending. BP withdrew the ads before considering the complaint. ClientEarth said it is now advising other fossil fuel companies about greenwashing advertisements.
“We are currently witnessing a major deception in which the companies most responsible for catastrophic warming are spending millions on advertising campaigns to show how their business plans are aligned with sustainability,” said Johnny White, one of the attorneys by ClientEarth.
“We need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, but instead of making a transition to a low carbon transition, these companies are advertising that will distract the public and wash their image. Our research shows that these advertisements misrepresent the true nature of companies’ businesses, their contribution to climate change and their transition plans. “
ClientEarth’s analysis includes claims that:
ExxonMobil’s advertisement suggested that its experimental algae biofuels could one day reduce traffic emissions, even though it does not have a company-wide net-zero target and its emissions reduction targets for 2025 do not include the vast majority of emissions from its products.
Saudi Arabia’s Aramco said it conducts its business “in a manner that meets the climate challenge,” but is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and plans to continue exploring for more oil and gas even though reserves are greater than that of Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total together.
Chevron said it was “part of the solution” to climate change but did not have a net zero commitment or a strategy aligned with the Paris Agreement. Its carbon capture and storage plans cover less than 1% of 2019 carbon emissions.
Shell said it is investing in “low carbon biofuels and hydrogen, electric vehicle charging, solar and wind power,” but in 2020 it was providing between $ 2 and $ 3 billion a year for low-carbon businesses, compared to $ 17 billion Dollars for fossil fuel operations.
Norwegian company Equinor has spoken of increasing its renewable capacity tenfold by 2026, but by that date only 4% of its energy is said to come from renewable sources.
ClientEarth said warnings in advertisements from oil companies should warn that fossil fuels are the leading cause of global warming and that companies must disclose how much they spend on fossil fuels compared to their low-carbon stores.
There are numerous campaigns banning fossil fuel advertising in Europe and North America. The French parliament proposed a law banning fossil fuel advertising in February, and a Dutch law professor published a paper arguing that fossil fuel advertising was inherently harmful and misleading and should be banned.
A Shell spokesperson said: “Our goal is to become a net zero carbon energy company by 2050, in line with society’s progress towards the Paris Agreement goal. Our short-, medium- and long-term intensity and absolute goals are fully in line with the more ambitious 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement. And our goals cover the entire range of our own emissions and those of our customers. “
A Chevron spokesman dismissed ClientEarth’s analysis. He said: “We are having honest talks about the energy transition. We believe the future of energy is lower carbon and we are working to help the world achieve that goal. We are taking measures to reduce the CO2 intensity of our operations and plants, to increase the use of renewable energies and offsets and to invest in low-carbon technologies. “
ExxonMobil, Aramco and Equinor did not respond to a request for comment.
The Guardian announced in January 2020 that it would no longer accept advertisements from oil and gas companies.