Shell greenwashing

Extinction Rebellion climate campaigners draw attention to fossil fuel industry greenwashing during a September 8, 2020 protest in London, United Kingdom. (Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Fossil Fuel Giants Dump Millions Into PR While Spending Little on Climate Action: Report

"This report shows the lengths oil and gas companies are willing to go to mislead citizens and protect their own interests," said one Green member of European Parliament.

Big Oil spends staggering sums annually "on a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive" on climate action, while investing just a small fraction of their capital expenditures on actual low-carbon activities, a report published this week revealed.

"They are still lobbying to lock in fossil fuels and investing in a really unsustainable energy future with high levels of oil and gas."

The new analysis from U.K.-based InfluenceMap estimates that five fossil fuel multinationals--BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies--"are spending around $750 million each year cumulatively on climate-related communication activities."

Meanwhile, just 12% of those companies' 2022 capital expenditures is forecast to be allocated for low-carbon activities.

"Essentially, we found that Big Oil is spending millions of dollars on this green PR, and it is a really systematic campaign to portray themselves as pro-climate," Faye Holder, InfluenceMap's program manager, toldThe Guardian.

"But at the same time, they are still lobbying to lock in fossil fuels and investing in a really unsustainable energy future with high levels of oil and gas, and very low spend on low-carbon activities."

A summary of the report noted that "additionally, none of the supermajors' forecasted oil production appears in line with the International Energy Agency's Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (as of Q4 2021), with several companies planning to increase oil and gas production between 2021 and 2026."

Furthermore, InfluenceMap found that "none of the companies have aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the goals of the Paris agreement," under which countries committed to limiting global heating to 2degC--and preferably 1.5degC--compared with preindustrial levels. This, while they continue to belong to industry associations that spend billions of dollars to sabotage climate action.

"Investors can already see there is a disconnect between companies' climate pledges and their actions, most notably their capital expenditure towards decarbonization," Laura Hillis, director of corporate engagement at the Australia-based Investor Group on Climate Change, said in a statement. "This research from InfluenceMap provides further proof that companies are not putting their money where their mouth is."

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"Investors want to see companies genuinely commit to and plan for the transition to net-zero emissions--not more greenwash," Hillis added. "It's past time for companies' actions to match their statements."

Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at the U.K. investment firm Sarasin & Partners, said the new report "paints a picture of a corporate effort to block more robust climate action."

"This jars with these same companies' expensive marketing campaigns that portray them as building a green future for society," she continued. "If oil and gas majors are serious about delivering a sustainable planet, it is time they called for the robust policy measures they know are needed. It is also time they publicly disassociate themselves from lobbying initiatives that seek the opposite."

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a Green party member of the European Parliament from France, stressed that "the time to act on climate disinformation is now."

"InfluenceMap's report shines a light on the staggering amount of disinformation that is being spread by some of the world's biggest polluters," she said. "This report shows the lengths oil and gas companies are willing to go to mislead citizens and protect their own interests."

"But protecting the environment from their harmful actions is in all of our interests," Delbos-Corfield asserted. "We urgently need change--more transparency, flagging, and fact-checking--and real consequences for repeat offenders."

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