Oil and gas giants spend over $1bn on ‘misleading’ climate credentials

The world’s five largest listed oil and gas companies have spent more than $1bn (£0.76bn) misleading the public about their climate change credentials, research from InfluenceMap has uncovered.

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In a report published today, the think tank said ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total each spend around $200m a year lobbying governments to protect and expand their fossil fuel operations.

At the same time, these companies shell out $195m on branding themselves as part of the solution to climate change, misleading the public on the extent of their actions.

InfluenceMap said this is part of a strategy by these companies to protect their annual sales of over $1trn, and warned that this is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the Paris Agreement.

“Oil majors are projecting themselves as key players in the energy transition while lobbying to delay, weaken or oppose meaningful climate policy,” report author, Edward Collins, said.

“They advocate gradual implementation of market-based and technological climate solutions, but the latest IPCC report makes clear that urgent policy action and limitations on fossil fuel use are needed to avoid dangerous climate change.”

All five of the companies studied support the Oil and Gas Climate initiative, which stresses the importance of low-carbon investments and technological solutions, but glosses over recommendations from the IPCC.

And they spent a combined $2m on targeted Facebook and Instagram adverts in the four weeks leading up to the US mid-term elections promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production.

The report also highlights how BP donated $13bn to a campaign that successfully blocked a carbon tax in Washington State.

Oil and gas firms are set to increase their total spending to $115bn this year, according to company disclosures, but just 3% of this is expected to go on low-carbon investments.

However, InfluenceMap said pressure is mounting for them to change their behaviour. Institutions with $30trn in assets now support the Climate Action 100+ initiative to ensure the world’s largest CO2 emitters take action.

“There is growing consensus on the need for urgent action on climate change, uniting scientists, business, investors and civil society in general,” Collins said.

“This report will provide them with ammunition to press for what the industry has been fearing for decades – meaningful and binding regulations on their operations in line with what is needed to address one of the most important challenges faced by humanity.” 

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