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A great deception’: oil giants taken to task over ‘greenwash’ ads

Damian Carrington Environment editor: Mon 19 Apr 2021 06.01 BST

Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies have used advertising to “greenwash” their ongoing contribution to the climate crisis, according to files published by the environmental lawyers ClientEarth. They describe the practice as “a great deception”.

The files compare the adverts produced by ExxonMobil, Aramco, Chevron, Shell, Equinor and others with the companies’ operations and products, overall climate impact and progress toward climate-safe business models.

ClientEarth is calling on policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet.

Its lawyers lodged a complaint in 2019 alleging that BP’s advertising campaigns had misled the public by focusing on the company’s low carbon energy products, when more than 96% of its annual spend was on oil and gas. BP withdrew the ads before the complaint was assessed. ClientEarth said it was now putting other fossil fuel companies on notice over greenwashing adverts.

Shell said it was investing in “lower-carbon biofuels and hydrogen, electric vehicle charging, solar and wind power”, but in 2020 it earmarked between $2bn and $3bn a year for low-carbon businesses, compared to $17bn on fossil fuels operations.

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