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Campaigners Accuse Companies of ‘Greenwashing on the Road to COP’

Colossal fossils BP and Shell, software giant Microsoft, and UK bioenergy producer Drax are among the companies that stand accused of greenwashing their own emission reduction commitments in a new “fact file” released this week by Boston-based campaign organization Corporate Accountability.

“While people around the world are demanding real solutions and real climate action to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5°C, corporations are using ‘net-zero’ to block effective climate policy and greenwash their image,” the group states, in an introduction to the nine-page brief it developed along with the Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth International, and the Global Forest Coalition.

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“If Big Polluters and governments like the U.S., UK, and EU are allowed to succeed in promoting their polluting ‘net-zero’ agenda, the main policy outcomes at COP 26 will be weak regulation of carbon markets, and a parade of self-regulated ‘net-zero’ pledges from polluting countries and corporations that are heavy on the PR and light on the action,” the fact file adds [pdf]. “Without a drastic change of course away from industry-backed false solutions and inadequate pledges, world leaders may miss the only remaining chance we have of keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.”

Each page of the fact file focuses on a different major emitter, with sections on what the authors term their “dirty climate footprint”, their net-zero “con”, and their “greenwashing and lobbying on the road to COP 26”. The six featured companies and organizations are BP, Microsoft, Drax, the International Emissions Trading Association, BlackRock, and Royal Dutch Shell.

In a release, the campaign groups decry corporate net-zero pledges as “the fossil fuel industry’s latest marketing attempt to convince the public that they can realize ‘carbon neutrality’.” Those schemes, the release adds, are ultimately a “get out of jail free card to avoid truly cutting emissions to zero or answering for decades of deception about their role in fueling the climate crisis.”

“Big Polluters have pulled out all the stops promoting their flakey ‘net-zero’ plans on the road to COP 26, from schmoozing decision-makers and sponsoring conferences to rubbing shoulders with the Queen of England,” Corporate Europe Observatory researcher Pascoe Sabido said in the release. “But look behind their vague ambitions and you see a chilling future of climate chaos and continued planetary destruction. These climate criminals should have no seat at the table while they continue to try and burn it down.”

“Big Oil not only lied to the American public about the reality and dangers of the climate crisis, they continue to churn out propaganda that downplays their central role in the greatest existential threat to humanity of our time,” said U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), whose House Oversight Environmental Subcommittee summoned U.S. fossil executives to a hearing this Thursday. “The fossil fuel industry’s ‘net-zero’ campaign is just one more way Big Oil is trying to deny responsibility for their central role in climate disruption, as extreme weather, flash floods, fires, and record-breaking temperatures wreak havoc for life on Earth.”

“The Amazon, my community, and I, our skin shows the destruction and disease that big polluting companies have left in their wake,” said Ecuadoran youth activist Leonela Yasuní Moncayo. “My present and future cannot depend on the will of corporations. They have shown that they will stop at nothing to make a profit, even when our rivers fill with oil, our lungs with gases, our bodies with cancer, our plants with poison, and the air with smoke.” 

Among the six companies on the Corporate Accountability list, only Microsoft is listed as a lead sponsor of COP 26. Fossil companies had expressed interest in sponsoring the event, but the UK Presidency told them they weren’t welcome.