As some of the biggest companies – in particular meat and dairy firms – grow more concerned about their climate-villain images, they are turning to greenwashing techniques: well-known tactics deployed by oil and gas industries to shift the debate away from meaningful action. Often valid concepts in and of themselves, the problem lies in how they are touted as enviro-friendly actions while companies fail to cut their contribution to global heating. The agriculture industry has a lot to be worried about. Meat emits around a third of global emissions of methane, and action to cut this greenhouse gas has been identified by the UN and world leaders as the quickest route to slowing global heating. Farming also relies on synthetic fertilisers that are both fossil-fuel-based and emit greenhouse gases, and drives deforestation.
The European Commission is facing calls to assess the climate impact of scores of proposed hydrogen projects after data revealed that 90 percent of them could be used to prolong the use of planet-warming natural gas. Companies operating Europe’s existing natural gas infrastructure are seeking to preserve the value of their assets by converting them to carry clean-burning hydrogen to power homes and industry in line with legally-binding climate targets. But the data compiled by Brussels-based research and advocacy group Food & Water Action Europe, and shared with DeSmog, shows that 57 percent of 147 hydrogen projects under consideration by the European Commission are designed to also carry natural gas, or “blue” hydrogen made from the fossil fuel.
The “greenwashing” efforts of UK airlines may be contributing to the destruction of rainforests in Asia, openDemocracy can reveal. The aviation industry began boasting of using ‘sustainable aviation fuel’ (SAF) last year. It claims this will help it to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 because it is made from ‘waste and residue’ materials and can produce 80% less emissions than fossil jet fuel. But government data reveals that more than 80% of the 26 million litres of SAF supplied to airlines in the UK last year was made from imported “used cooking oil”. Most came from countries in Asia, where its authenticity has been questioned.
Yet another report has cast doubt on the accuracy and reliability of the carbon credits companies and individuals purchase to offset their climate-polluting emissions. The first-of-its-kind peer-reviewed study, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change Tuesday, looked at almost 300 projects that made up 11 percent of the carbon credits on offer to date. It found that methods for calculating the carbon credits were often in conflict with scientific best-practices, which increased the risk of “significant over-estimation” of the amount of carbon a project might keep from the atmosphere. The report comes around two months after a major investigation found that 94 percent of the forest offset credits verified by top carbon credit certifier Verra did not truly offset any emissions.
Bayer, the world’s second largest crop chemicals company, sponsored a French influencer to create and share pro-pesticides content with over 300,000 followers on her Instagram account, an investigation has revealed. Jenny Letellier – one of France’s biggest YouTubers with nearly 4 million subscribers – has come under fire for the sponsored content, which was broadcasted via a series of videos from France’s leading agriculture fair last month. This content was produced in conjunction with Morgan Niquet, a YouTuber with 1.3 million subscribers. French media outlet Vakita, which broke the story, obtained a copy of the contract between the German multinational and Letellier that specified how the social media campaign was tailored to meet clear PR objectives for the company.
As the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, festivities drew to a close, Dina Nuñez called to order a meeting of women grassroots activists in a modest home in the heart of Port Isabel, Texas. Top of her agenda: how to stop a Houston-based oil and gas company from building a $10 billion project to export liquefied natural gas on a nearby stretch of coast. For Nuñez and her friends, the fight against the scheme — known as Rio Grande LNG — is about protecting their community from air pollution; preserving shrimping and tourism; and defending habitats for pelicans, endangered ocelots, and aplomado falcons at the project site on unspoiled wetlands between Port Isabel and the larger city of Brownsville. The claim by developer NextDecade to be building the “greenest LNG project in the world” has thrust the women to the forefront of a global struggle.
Are carbon offsets a useful tool on the road to net zero or simply another form of greenwashing? A new investigation from The Guardian, Die Zeit and SourceMaterial leads heavily toward the latter conclusion. The report, published Wednesday, found that more than 90 percent of the rainforest offset credits offered by top carbon standard Verra are actually what The Guardian called “phantom credits” that don’t actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “The implications of this analysis are huge,” Barbara Haya, who leads the Carbon Trading Project at the University of California, Berkeley, told SourceMaterial. “Companies are making false claims and then they’re convincing customers that they can fly guilt-free or buy carbon-neutral products when they aren’t in any way carbon-neutral.”
Disinformation campaigns will certainly continue in 2023, confusing and convincing ever more people that fake news is true. Still, I’m encouraged by growing interest in “pre-bunking” — inoculating people against disinformation by familiarizing them with common disinformation tropes and techniques ahead of time. This is familiar territory for DeSmog — we have unpacked and decoded fossil fuel greenwashing and climate denier messaging for more than a decade — but now that social media has turbocharged the circulation of conspiracy theories and white grievance, it’s vital to get out ahead of these messages. Researchers have been studying the effectiveness of pre-bunking for some years, and now the idea seems to be going mainstream; NPR, the Associated Press, and NBC News have all run stories about pre-bunking in recent months.
A little known market based initiative known as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) may not officially be part of the negotiations between nations, but the topic has been saturating panel events and side discussions throughout the UN Biodiversity Summit underway in Montreal right now. This profile has been further heightened with the announcement today that Germany and Norway have pledged 30 Million Euro to the TNFD. Biodiversity advocates are alarmed at the sudden prominence and high level support of a process driven by corporate executives – which few understand. CSOs have referred to TNFD as ‘the next frontier on the corporate greenwashing on nature’ and raised alarm that it is trying to insert itself as a template for future state and international level regulations.
Major investment funds available to UK consumers are marketing themselves as “sustainable” and “ethical” while financing fossil fuel companies, research has found. Numerous asset managers are using “green” terms in their branding despite investing in oil giants, with the worst performer being a fund managed by BlackRock, a report by the Ethical Consumer magazine shows. The news comes amid growing scrutiny of “greenwashing” in the investment world, with the Financial Conduct Authority currently consulting on new rules to tackle the issue and HSBC recently having a series of adverts banned for misleading customers about the bank’s environmental efforts. Edward Lander, the report’s lead author, said: “We are in an absurd situation in which asset managers can label funds as “sustainable” while still investing in the world’s largest fossil fuel companies."
As the annual UN climate conference, COP27, came to a close in late November, the talks produced a lot of lofty rhetoric but little concrete progress on the gravest threat facing humanity today. There was one very important positive development: After years of demands by poor countries in the Global South suffering the worst impacts of climate disasters, the COP27 agreement finally established a “loss and damage” fund for the wealthy countries most responsible for climate change to compensate poor countries for climate disasters. Much remains undecided, including the size of the fund, its governance structure and how much countries should contribute. And even if wealthy countries pledge contributions, there’s no guarantee they’ll keep their promises — they’ve already broken the promise made in 2009 of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance for the Global South.
Following two weeks of negotiations built on over three decades of struggle, COP27 finally yielded a Loss and Damage fund on November 20. The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan was gavelled in the early hours of Sunday, two days after the summit was scheduled to end, as negotiations ran into overtime on key standing issues. “The ultimate test of this COP is that it responded to the voices of the vulnerable,” stated Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman during the closing plenary. “The establishment of a Loss and Damage fund is not charity. It is a down payment on our shared futures. It is a down payment on climate justice.” Pakistan served as chair of the G77 and China bloc, which represents 134 countries, and played an instrumental role in getting Loss and Damage on the agenda.
The international climate talks in Egypt — the 27th Conference of Parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP27 — have become a dystopian nightmare: Oil companies, dictators and greenwashers captured the process more effectively than ever. But there is hope: Alliances are taking shape — between civil society, scientists and labor — that aim to break the fossil fuel companies’ deathly grip on climate policy. This year’s United Nations climate summit, which ends on November 17 at the luxury Sharm el-Sheikh resort, is the first to which oil and gas companies were invited to participate in the official program of events. Rachel Rose Jackson of Corporate Accountability commented that “COP27 looks like a fossil fuel industry trade show.”
Carbon offsets—a business this new U.S. plan seems poised to grow—have been especially controversial; numerous stories and studies over the past several years have suggested they may be worse than useless, plagued by accounting problems while essentially giving companies a green light to keep emitting. As climate talks kicked off in Egypt this week and U.S. Democrats braced for a possible shellacking in Tuesday’s elections, climate envoy John Kerry floated a new initiative for helping countries finance emissions reductions. Hauling out a favorite line, Kerry told The Wall Street Journal that “no government in the world has enough money to affect the transition,” referencing the $1.3 trillion in annual funding developing countries have demanded richer ones furnish by 2030.