Scientists Start Petition Asking Academic Publisher to Stop Helping Fossil Fuel Industry

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A group of scientists launched a petition on Wednesday demanding that the academic publishing powerhouse Elsevier cut its ties with the fossil fuel industry and abandon other “activities that are contrary to achieving the kind of climate goals that science tells us what we need to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.”

Elsevier, a Dutch company that manages more than 2,700 scientific, technical and medical journals in which research is peer-reviewed and disseminated, and its parent company, RELX, say they are committed to protecting the environment, committing minimize their “contribution to climate change”. change, depending on the scale of action deemed necessary by science.”

“The problem with fossil fuels is that they are insidiously woven into the financial fabric of countless other businesses.”

But earlier this year, journalist Amy Westervelt revealed how Elsevier, one of the few companies to publish peer-reviewed climate research, “is working with the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil drilling and gas”.

In their new petition, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) claim that “Elsevier can do better” and urge the publisher to “better align its business practices with its publicly stated values ​​and commitments “.

As Westervelt explained in The Guardianthe company “behind many renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals, including The Lancet and Global environmental changeis also one of the leading publishers of books aimed at developing fossil fuel production.”

“For more than a decade, the company has supported energy industry efforts to optimize oil and gas extraction,” Westervelt reported. “He commissions authors, editors and members of the journal’s advisory board who are employees of the biggest oil companies. Elsevier also markets some of its research portals and data services directly to the oil and gas industry to help “increase the chances of exploration success”.

“However, top climatologists, including those published in Elsevier’s own journals, say the exact opposite must happen to avert climate catastrophe,” the journalist noted. “Limiting warming to 1.5°C or less requires a global decrease in fossil fuel production with more than 80% of all proven reserves left in the ground.”

According to UCS and SGR, the commitments made by RLEX “include adherence to the [United Nations] The Race to Zero campaign, which set a June 15, 2023 deadline for members to stop facilitating new fossil fuel assets and to ensure that all external engagement activities are aligned with achieving the global goal of net zero.

“We, the undersigned, including many users and authors of Elsevier publications, call on the company to uphold its Race to Zero commitments and align its business practices and the products and services it offers with its publicly stated values ​​and goals. “, indicates the letter of the groups.

To that end, UCS and SGR are asking RLEX to cease the following five practices:

  • Provide R&D and data services focused on the fossil fuel industry that are used by most major oil, gas and coal companies;
  • Lobby and financially support US politicians who block climate action;
  • Disseminate content that reveals exploration areas, illuminates exploration practices and techniques, provides the industry with legal resources for expansion, and promotes R&D for new technologies needed for deep-sea exploration, in arctic and unconventional;
  • Remove barriers to exploring and exploiting emerging markets with Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions for Oil & Gas; and
  • Organize exhibitions on coal, offshore drilling and other industries that allow participants to develop their businesses and stimulate the production of fossil fuels.

The signatories request an official response from RLEX by January 30 that “outlines the changes that will be implemented by the UN deadline of June 15, 2023, including, but not limited to, areas described above”.

UCS and SGR say the response must “include a commitment to cease supplying goods or services that inform new fossil fuel projects” and “adhere to the standards of business conduct established under the agreements the company publicly claims to uphold. “, including but not limited to the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign, United Nations Global Compact, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights .

“If no response is provided, or if the company’s response does not sufficiently meet the above criteria, stakeholders reserve the right to participate in operational-level grievance mechanisms for affected individuals and communities. by the company’s activities and business relationships,” the letter continued. .

According to UCS and SGR, “These mechanisms are outlined in the guidelines of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which state that formal judgment, if necessary, should be provided by a legitimate third-party mechanism and independent”.

In response, Westervelt tweeted, “This could get interesting!”

Earlier this year, Sherri Aldis, acting deputy director of the UN’s Department of Global Communications, told the reporter that “we will not comment on the practices of individual companies, but any action actively supporting the expansion of fuels development fossil fuels is indeed incompatible” with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In a blog post accompanying the petition, UCS climatologist Kristy Dahl wrote, “When I think of greenwashing – the practice of making a product, policy or activity appear to be kinder to the environment than it actually is – the big issues come to mind first: the ExxonMobils, Shells and Chevrons of the world When fossil fuel production and deception form the two cores of a company’s business model, greenwashing is easy to spot and denounce.”

“But the problem with fossil fuels is that they’re insidiously woven into the financial fabric of countless other businesses,” Dahl continued.

Elsevier’s collaboration with oil and gas companies is “inconsistent” with its purported “commitment to climate action”, she added. “In fact, that’s what inaction on climate change looks like. This is what greenwashing looks like.”

With $9.8 billion in annual revenue, about a third of which is attributable to Elsevier, RELX is an extremely profitable company.

As Westervelt pointed out in his February briefing: “Elsevier is not alone in maintaining relationships with climate researchers and fossil fuel executives. the oil and gas industry in various ways.

She continued:

UK-based publisher Taylor & Francis, for example, signed the UN Pledge and published its own net zero pledges while touting its publishing partnership with “industry leader” ExxonMobil, the oil company most linked to climate obstructionism in the public consciousness. . Another leading climate publisher, Wiley, has also signed the sustainability pact while publishing several books and journals aimed at helping the industry find and drill more oil and gas.

“It’s problematic,” Kimberly Nicholas, an associate professor of sustainability science at Lund University in Sweden, told him at the time. “If the same publisher that publishes the articles that definitively show that we can no longer burn fossil fuels and meet this carbon budget is also helping the fossil fuel industry do just that, what does it do to the whole premise of validity around climate research is what is deeply concerning in these disputes.

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