Top oil firms have spent $1B on branding, lobbying since Paris Agreement: study

The five largest publicly-owned oil and gas companies in the world have invested over $1 billion in shareholder funds in the three years following the Paris climate agreement on “misleading climate-related branding and lobbying," according to a new report from InfluenceMap.

The research, released last Friday, found that the five companies — ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total — spend $200 million dollars every year on lobbying seeking to control, delay or block policies that combat climate change.

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“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 report states.

The report found that Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil led the other companies in lobbying efforts pushing back against legislation intended to tackle global warming.

The report also found that the companies were increasingly using social media to push their agenda to oppose such polices. Top oil companies and their industry bodies also were found to have spent $2 million on ads ran on Facebook and Instagram that promoted the benefits of increased fossil fuel production, according the report. 

Because company disclosures on spending on climate lobbying are limited, the UK-based nonprofit said it created the report using a methodology that focused on the best available records and intensive research of corporate messaging “to evaluate oil major spending aimed at influencing the climate agenda, both directly and through their key trade groups.” 

The nonprofit’s research also found that companies spent an annual $195 million on investing in branding campaigns “aimed at convincing stakeholders they are on board with ambitious action on climate.”

The report pointed to ExxonMobil’s current promotion of its algae-biofuels research and the jointly funded Oil and Gas Climate Initiative as an example. The nonprofit said the messaging of the company’s promotion “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,” the report states. “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.”

Shell rejected the report’s findings in a statement to The Guardian: “We firmly reject the premise of this report. We are very clear about our support for the Paris agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy.

“We make no apology for talking to policymakers and regulators around the world to make our voice heard on crucial topics such as climate change and how to address it,” the company added.

Chevron also came out against the report, telling the news agency that it “is taking prudent, cost-effective actions and is committed to working with policymakers to design balanced and transparent greenhouse gas emissions reductions policies that address environmental goals and ensure consumers have access to affordable, reliable and ever cleaner energy.”