Make Polluters Pay billboard

A preview image of a billboard that's set to appear in Times Square on September 18, 2023.

(Photo: Make Polluters Pay Campaign)

New 'Make Polluters Pay' Campaign Pushes States—and Biden DOJ—to Sue Big Oil

"It's time to come together and finally hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage they've done."

Shortly after California sued five fossil fuel giants over their decades of climate deception and damage, activists on Saturday announced the launch of a new campaign aimed at pressuring the Biden Justice Department and state attorneys general across the U.S. to join the growing legal fight against Big Oil.

The "Make Polluters Pay" campaign is set to formally kick off Monday with a billboard display in Times Square and a six-figure digital ad buy designed to build public support for lawsuits against leading oil and gas firms, which knew about the link between their products and climate change long before they publicly acknowledged it.

"Climate change isn't just a tragedy, it's a crime," said Jamie Henn, founder of Fossil Free Media, one of the groups behind the new campaign. "Fossil fuel companies knew, they lied, and now it's time to make them pay. Right now, billions of us around the world are experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis firsthand. It's time to come together and finally hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage they've done."

Dozens of U.S. counties, cities, and states have sued fossil fuel companies in recent years over the destruction wreaked by oil, gas, and coal projects, which remain a dire threat to global efforts to limit planetary warming and prevent the kinds of catastrophic weather events the world has seen in recent months from becoming even more intense and deadly.

On Friday, California became the largest economy in the world to take legal action against the fossil fuel industry, suing ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and the American Petroleum Institute for engaging in a "multidecade, ongoing campaign to seek endless profits at the expense of our planet."

The new pressure campaign, modeled after the national effort to inform the public about the threat of tobacco, hopes to push other states—and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland—to follow in California's footsteps.

"Knowingly wrecking the climate is criminal," Leah Qusba of Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE) said in a statement. "Make no mistake—they will pay for losses and damages."

The campaign is set to launch ahead of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday.

The summit, billed as a "no-nonsense" effort to generate more aggressive action plans to phase out planet-warming energy, will be preceded by hundreds mass demonstrations across the globe imploring U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders to "end fossil fuels."

The protests will culminate in the "March to End Fossil Fuels" in New York City on Sunday afternoon.

"Big Oil owes us for the lives and livelihoods lost to climate change-linked extreme weather, illness, and death," said Alex Witt, the senior adviser for oil and gas at Climate Power. "The industry's C-suite has known for decades the horrific impact oil and gas have on the climate, and they kept drilling. That's not just negligent; it's reprehensible."

"The tide has turned against Big Oil," Witt added, "and they know it."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.