How Fossil Fuel Companies Overpromise But Underachieve Climate Goals


InfluenceMap is an independent research group producing data-driven analysis of the impact of business and finance on the climate crisis. In 2019, she produced a report titled “Big Oil’s Real Climate Change Agendawhich revealed that the world’s major fossil fuel companies have spent $1 billion since the signing of the Paris climate accords to lobby against climate change policies. Three years later, he’s back with an updated report. Here is what he has to say:

“This latest report compares and contrasts the public communications, business operations and political engagement of 5 ‘supermajor’ oil companies: BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies.

“In-depth analysis reveals that the five supermajors spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive in the face of the climate change emergency. This turns out to be incompatible with companies’ capital investment projects in their business. It also appears not to be aligned with the detailed policy engagement activities of companies and their industry associations on climate change.

“Of 3,421 items of public communications material from the five companies in 2021, 60% contained at least one green claim, while only 23% contained claims promoting oil and gas. Claims emphasizing corporate support or involvement in energy mix transition efforts were by far the most popular type of green claim.

“None of the companies assessed disclosed the strategies that inform their public messages on climate change, nor the resources dedicated to related activities. Using cost estimates based on the number of communications and media employees that the companies employ, InfluenceMap analysis suggests that companies spend approximately $750 million each year cumulatively on climate-related communications activities.

“In contrast, only 12% of the capital expenditure (CAPEX) of the five companies in 2022 is expected to be spent on “low carbon” activities. Moreover, none of the oil production forecasts from the supermajors appear to be in line with net zero emissions. from the International Energy Agency by 2050 (in the fourth quarter of 2021), with several companies planning to increase oil and gas production between 2021 and 2026.

“At the same time, InfluenceMap found that none of the companies have aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement and maintain a dense, global network of industry associations at the scale, who are very active in their opposition to Paris Aligned climate policies

“The findings raise serious and lingering questions for regulators and corporate shareholders, as well as for public relations and advertising agencies, media outlets and social media platforms that work with companies. It should be noted that this analysis focuses on the main business communication channels of the companies and therefore focuses on their North American/European communications. Future research will focus on how companies communicate in the Global South. »

Readers can download the data that supports the new report by logging on to the links provided by InfluenceMap on its 2022 report webpage.

Fossil fuel companies are playing with the system

“Essentially, we’ve seen that big oil companies are spending millions of dollars on this green PR, and it’s a really systematic campaign to portray themselves as pro-climate,” said Faye Holder, program manager at InfluenceMap. The Guardian. “But at the same time, they’re still pushing to lock in fossil fuels and invest in a truly unsustainable energy future with high levels of oil and gas and very low spending on low-carbon activities.”

None of the “About Us” pages on the companies’ websites describe them as oil and gas companies, Holder says. “The best example, in my mind, was BP — on their ‘Who We Are’ page, they only mention the word ‘oil’ twice. And that’s at the bottom of the page, under a section called ‘Our Story’. “, where they describe how they’ve always been an energy company in transition from coal to oil to gas and that low carbon future. So it’s very clear that they want to decouple from oil and gas and commit to this climate agenda.

Reaction to the InfluenceMap 2022 report

The reaction to the latest report was immediate. Here are the responses from two climate advocates (you can see more on the InfluenceMap webpage):

“Now is the time to act against climate misinformation. InfluenceMap’s report highlights the staggering amount of misinformation being spread by some of the world’s biggest polluters. This report shows how far oil and gas companies are willing to go to deceive citizens and protect their own interests. But protecting the environment from their harmful actions is in all of our interests. We urgently need change – more transparency, reporting and fact-checking, and real consequences for repeat offenders. — Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Member of the European Parliament.

“Investors can already see that there is a disconnect between companies’ climate commitments and their actions, including their capital expenditures for decarbonization. This research from InfluenceMap provides further evidence that companies don’t put their money where they say they do. Investors want to see companies make a real commitment and plan for the transition to net zero emissions – not greenwash. It’s high time that companies’ actions matched their statements. — Laura Hillis, Director of Corporate Engagement at Investors Group on Climate Change

Predictably, fossil fuel companies reacted negatively to the report. Shell disputed the findings, saying InfluenceMap failed to account for low-carbon companies included in its marketing division. These include electric vehicle charging and low-carbon fuels, as well as a joint venture in Brazil with a bioethanol producer. The company previously said more than 35% of capital expenditure in 2022 would go to low-carbon energy as well as “non-energy products”.

“We are already investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy,” a spokesperson said. The Guardian. “To help change the energy mix sold by Shell, we must rapidly develop these new activities. This means informing our customers through advertising or social media of the low-carbon solutions we currently offer or are developing, so they can switch when the time is right.

“The world will still need oil and gas for many years to come. By investing in it, we can provide the energy people will still have to rely on, while low-carbon alternatives are brought to scale.

A TotalEnergies spokesperson said The Guardian, “Our public announcements policy reflects the transformation of TotalEnergies into a multi-energy company. As proof, the InfluenceMap report publishes a forecast that ranks TotalEnergies at the top of the supermajors in terms of capacities based on renewable assets.

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said, “ExxonMobil continues to mitigate emissions from its operations and has achieved its 2025 emissions reduction plans four years ahead of schedule. These advancements support the company’s more aggressive 2030 emissions reduction plans and its ambition to achieve net Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from operated assets by 2050. ExxonMobil is investing more than $15 billion by 2027 in emissions reduction initiatives and we plan to triple investments by 2025.

Sophisticated readers will notice that it is the scope 3 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are largely responsible for the planet’s overheating and that Exxon is failing to address it. Moreover, so-called low-carbon fuels are not the panacea that the fossil fuel industry likes to describe them.

Fossil Fuel Takeaways

The archives at Clean Technica are filled with articles that explain how the fossil fuel industry likes to talk out of both sides of its mouth. One of the most disturbing describes how industry has planned 195 so-called “carbon bomb” projects that would quickly exceed the remaining carbon budget, according to climate scientists, that Earth must meet in order to avoid catastrophic changes that will endanger the whole human race. .

Yesterday we reported on the sudden rise in misinformation online about electric car and grid charging. Shell, Exxon and others may not fund such nonsense directly, but they do so indirectly by funding lobby groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, the US Chamber of Commerce and others.

It’s clear that they support the idea of ​​a zero-emissions world while stuffing their pockets with money selling their climate-killing products. They will never change. The only way to beat them is to make them financially useless by moving to zero-emissions transmission and power generation as quickly as possible.

The ‘Kodak moment’ for the fossil fuel industry cannot come soon enough for the Earth and everything his people.


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