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Greenwash

Greenwash

An operation of fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil near Chicago, USA [Richard Hurd, Flickr CC BY 2.0]

The harm caused by the climate crisis has become undeniable – and terrifying. The floods, storms and raging fires, and the death and displacement they bring, have contributed to a global upwelling of concern and demands on governments to take action. But this has led to new behaviour by the fossil fuels lobby that will undermine efforts to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown if not rigorously challenged.When people experience the frightening reality of a warming world, they are resistant to Big Oil’s previous tactics of denying that climate change is happening or pretending its impacts will be negligible. But rather than shift their huge investment power to renewable energy and take the financial hit from admitting that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves are unburnable, companies such as Shell and BP have adopted a different approach: greenwashing. In efforts to continue with business-as-usual operations and keep on drilling and mining, fossil fuel companies are ramping up their use of public relations to paint a green veneer over their destructive practices. They try to portray themselves as caring, responsible corporate citizens, while continuing to mine, drill, burn and spill.

Ramped-up rhetoric

If someone is making money from oil, coal or gas but tries to persuade us that they are on our side on the climate crisis, and they’ve got a way to tackle it without stopping burning fossil fuels – that is greenwash. From fossil fuels industry get-togethers to oil company reports, the industry is ramping up its rhetoric about being part of the solution. ‘International Petroleum Week’ earlier this year portrayed itself as ‘Delivering a low-carbon future’, while the ‘Oil and Money’ conference in 2019 claimed to offer ‘Strategies for the energy transition’.

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The Net Zero Emissions Lie

The Net Zero Emissions Lie

Cutting carbon emissions has become a central focus of countries and companies alike in the past decade. The oil majors are racing to ‘go green, Microsoft has pledged to go ‘carbon negative’, and over 20 nations have either committed to or achieved net-zero carbon targets. For public companies, the incentives to go green are clear, with a recent boom in ESG investing, the continued threat of activist divestment, and a growing body of government regulation. Meanwhile, for governments, the environment is becoming an increasingly important electoral issue and political parties are eager to be seen as being proactive on the issue. But just as the ESG investment boom has led to an increase in the phenomenon of ‘greenwashing’, countries who are eager to make grand statements about being carbon zero within a decade or two may be overselling exactly what it is that they are doing.

Climate change is, by its very nature, a global problem. With that in mind, it is possible for one country to reduce its carbon emissions to zero without any reduction in the level of carbon emitted worldwide. As long as that same country continues to trade and consume, the carbon-reliant products it needs will simply be imported from a nation without any limits on carbon emissions. To claim ‘real’ net-zero emissions, countries would have to go significantly further.

That isn’t to say that the net-zero initiatives are entirely without merit. Increasing renewable energy usage, building more energy-efficient homes, and electrifying transportation would all have a tangible effect on decreasing global carbon emissions. But, as economist Dieter Helm points out in his recent book, if an individual state wants to truly become a net-zero carbon emitter, then it would need to have a carbon tax at its border as well as reducing its production of carbon domestically.

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Massachusetts Sues ExxonMobil For Climate Disinformation, Greenwashing

Massachusetts Sues ExxonMobil For Climate Disinformation, Greenwashing 

Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil today over the company’s misinformation campaign to delay action to address climate change. 

Attorney General Maura Healey told reporters in a press conference today that “Exxon has fought us every step of the way,” and was “completely uncooperative,” noting that the company failed to comply with requests for documents and depositions. 

“Exxon has yet to produce to our office a single document. They have yet to provide to our office a single witness. So they have been completely uncooperative with our investigation,” Healey told reporters.

ExxonMobil misstated facts and failed to disclose important information to both consumers and investors, according to the complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court by the attorney general’s office.

“Exxon has known for decades about the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels—its chief product,” said AGHealey. “Yet, to this day, Exxon continues to deceive Massachusetts consumers and investors about the dangerous climate harms caused by its oil and gasoline products and the significant risks of climate change—and efforts to address it—to Exxon’s business.”

“Contrary to its shareholder representations and deceptive advertising and marketing, Exxon’s products are a leading cause of climate change, not a solution. That deception, we allege, violates Massachusetts law, and that’s why we are suing. Our goal here is simple – to stop Exxon from engaging in this deception and penalize the company for this misconduct,” Healey said.

“In order to increase its short-term profits, stock price, and access to capital, ExxonMobil has been dishonest with investors about the material climate-driven risks to its business and with consumers about how its fossil fuel products cause climate change―all in violation of Massachusetts law,” the complaint asserts.

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At Vancouver’s Clean Energy Summit, Nuclear Is Making a Play

At Vancouver’s Clean Energy Summit, Nuclear Is Making a Play

Note to ministers from 25 nations: Prepare to be dangerously greenwashed.

CoolingTowersBlueSky.jpg
At this week’s Clean Energy Ministerial, a ‘high-level global forum’ to combat climate change, nuclear power will be on the table. Cooling towers of Dukovany nuclear power plant in Dukovany. Source: Wikimedia.

This week Vancouver is host to a summit of ministers from over 25 countries gathered “to accelerate progress toward a clean energy future.” 

Created in 2010, the Clean Energy Ministerial describes itself as a “high-level global forum to promote policies that advance clean energy technology” and “to encourage the transition towards a global clean energy economy.” 

As we face massive environmental challenges, a transition is clearly needed. The problem is that one significant focus of the CEM is to find ways of preserving the existing energy infrastructure while greenwashing it.

Case in point: the cleverly termed NICE Future, which stands for Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future, that was set up in 2018 by the CEM initiative. Its stated aim is “to initiate a dialogue on the role that clean and reliable nuclear energy can play in bolstering economic growth, energy security and access, and environmental stewardship.”

But nuclear energy is not clean except in some narrow definition, and our experience over the decades with this technology has shown that it cannot “bolster” any of the other goals. The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Dirty truths about ‘clean energy’

Before going further, it would help to better understand the term clean energy. For years now, there is an open and growing preference for renewable energy among the public around the world. 

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