Report warns of ‘systematic misalignment’ between oil giants’ green advertising and spending plans

A new report has claimed that major oil firms BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies are “disseminating disinformation” in order to showcase themselves as environmentally responsible, despite continuing to lobby governments to promote fossil fuels.

Report warns of ‘systematic misalignment’ between oil giants’ green advertising and spending plans

Renewable power rose by 14% in 2022, slightly below the growth rate of 16% in 2021

The new InfluenceMap study was published on Thursday (8 September) and outlines the green spending data on the world’s largest fossil fuel firms – namely BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies.

The report analyses  3,421 pieces of evidence of public communication from the five big oil companies from last year and compares them with CAPEX forecasts for this year. It found that 60% of public messages and advertising from these firms promote green claims, compared to 23% mentioning oil and gas. However, these companies have only allocated 12%, on average, of their CAPEX on low-carbon investments.

InfluenceMap also warns that even low-carbon spending is likely to include fossil fuel investments, given both TotalEnergies and Shell have fossil gas-related investments in their ‘low carbon’ CAPEX outlook.

In total, the companies spent $750m combined on climate and green messaging in 2021, but several of the companies are due to expand oil and gas production through to 2026.

InfluenceMap Program Manager Faye Holder said: “The world’s big oil and gas companies are spending huge amounts of time and money talking up their ‘green’ credentials, while their business investments and lobbying activities tell a very different story.

“These companies talk about cutting emissions and transitioning the energy mix, but at the same time continue to invest heavily in new fossil fuel infrastructure. While this PR strategy might convince some people, it doesn’t change the fact that these companies are out-of-step with science-based pathways to net zero.”

Lobbying concerns

There are some disparities between the companies. Indeed, 70% of Shell’s messaging contains green claims, compared to 49% for Chevron, for example. Shell, BP and TotalEnergies are also more focused on transition claims compared to the two US firms.

InfluenceMap also ranked the firms on whether or not they’ve aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the pathways of the Paris Agreement. The answer is a resounding no, with Shell, TotalEnergies, and BP rank a ‘C-’ on InfluenceMap’s A-to-F scale, which suggests mixed support. Exxon and Chevron rank D and D- respectively, indicating “broad opposition to Paris-aligned climate policy”.

Separate research has revealed that G20 member countries collectively allocated subsidies topping $3.3trn to the oil, coal, gas and fossil-fuelled electricity generation sectors between 2015 and 2019 – a level incompatible with the Paris Agreement.

Elsewhere, Carbon Tracker has warned that projects and companies sitting on three times the level of fossil fuels that could be burned by 2050 while keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5C are being supported by global stock markets.

The think-tank’s new ‘Unburnable Carbon’ report states that the “embedded emissions” of all oil, coal and natural gas reserves listed on global stock markets – the amount of emissions they would generate if extracted and burned – would wipe out any chance of the world keeping to the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious 1.5C pathway. Scientists have repeatedly stated that aiming for 1.5C is necessary to attempt to avoid the worst physical, social and economic impacts of the climate crisis.

The report also emphasises that, despite national commitments to net-zero, the embodied emissions of fossil fuel companies listed on stock exchanges are rising. It states that they are currently 40% higher than 10 years ago.

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