This research finds that the five largest publicly-traded oil and gas majors (ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total) have invested over $1Bn of shareholder funds in the three years following the Paris Agreement on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying. These efforts are overwhelmingly in conflict with the goals of this landmark global climate accord, and designed to maintain the social and legal license to operate and expand fossil fuel operations.
The most important part of this campaign activity is the nearly $200M per year spent on lobbying designed to control, delay, or block binding climate-motivated policy. This lobbying has hindered governments globally in their efforts to implement such policies post-Paris, which according to the latest IPCC report of 2018 are crucial to meet climate targets and keep warming below 1.5oC.
All five oil majors continue their efforts to capture the narrative on fossil fuels and climate, driven by coordinated messaging from corporate leadership on the need for increased fossil fuel production to meet global energy demand. Since Paris, Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil have led in direct lobbying activities to oppose a range of progressive climate policy strands. Royal Dutch Shell and to some extent Total have made steps since 2015 to be more positive on a number of climate policy issues. However, both companies continue to support policy supporting a continued role for fossil fuels in the energy mix and remain part of highly climate-oppositional trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.
A key trend is the tactical use of social media. In the four weeks up to the US midterm elections ExxonMobil led the majors and their agents in combined spending of $2M on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production and supporting successful opposition to several key climate related ballot initiatives on November 6th, 2018.
This lobbying strategy is complimented by an annual $195M investment by the five companies in often misleading branding campaigns aimed at convincing stakeholders they are on board with ambitious action on climate. Examples include ExxonMobil’s ongoing promotion of its algae- biofuels research and the jointly funded Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, whose messaging de- emphasizes climate regulation while stressing voluntary action and low carbon investments. In fact, company disclosures show such investments will make around 3% of the oil projected capital investments by the oil majors. Exxon’s goal of reaching 10,000 barrels of biofuel a day by 2025 would still only equate to 0.2% of its current refinery capacity, essentially a rounding error.
The research highlights the outsourcing of the most direct, negative and egregious climate lobbying to trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute which in 2018 successfully campaigned to deregulate oil and gas development, including a rollback of methane standards. Oil and gas funded groups also appear to have coordinated efforts in California, at the US Federal level and in the European Union to oppose policy on the electrification of the transport sector.
report available hereIM_Lobby_Spend_Mar_2019