Climate scientists blame Exxon lobbyists for disinformation that undermines efforts to reduce emissions and global warming

CO2 emissions
  • A leaked draft report by top climate scientists blamed lobbyists for climate change disinformation.
  • The report said the disinformation is stalling efforts to curb emissions, Politico reported.
  • An Exxon official was previously caught on camera talking about the company’s lobbying strategy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Top climate scientists blamed disinformation and lobbying campaigns including those from Exxon Mobile for slowing down efforts to curb emissions, a leaked draft report obtained by Politico said.

The report, part of an upcoming review of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has a section called “resistance to climate change science” under its North American section.

The report blamed think tanks, foundations, and trade associations that represent fossil fuel companies for spreading fake science that misleads the public and hampers efforts to curb the climate crisis.

“Rhetoric on climate change and the undermining of science have contributed to misperceptions of the scientific consensus, uncertainty, unduly discounted risk and urgency, dissent, and, most importantly, polarized public support delaying mitigation and adaptation action, particularly in the US,” the report said.

This comes after Greenpeace investigation project Unearthed released videos showing an Exxon Mobil official who was tricked to believe he was in an interview speaking frankly about the group’s lobbying strategies.

Keith McCoy, Exxon’s senior director for federal relations, spoke about “shadow groups” working to influence senators to weaken parts of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.

“Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week,” McCoy bragged to the interviewer. He called the Democratic senator from West Virginia a “kingmaker” and discussed how “on the Democrat side we look for the moderates on these issues” in their efforts to stop policies that could hurt the company’s business.

In a statement, Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said: “We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, who chairs the environment subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told Politico he’s spoken to government leadership about subpoenaing leaders of groups like Exxon, Chevron, and other fossil fuel companies about disinformation efforts

Khanna also said he and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will write laws that force these companies to disclose what money is going to groups that distort climate information.

“It is a major problem. One of the reasons that we haven’t had action is that we don’t have a common source of facts,” Khanna told Politico. “Until we solve the climate disinformation issue or at least mitigate the issue, it becomes very hard to build a broad-based political consensus that is needed to take the kind of bold steps that are needed to tackle the crisis.”

Insider has reached out to Exxon for comment.

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Oil majors Exxon and Shell face a climate-change rethink after ‘seismic’ green activist victories

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Exxon CEO Darren Woods said the company is well positioned to respond to shareholders.

Wednesday was tough for the world’s biggest oil companies.

First, a court in the Netherlands ruled that Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has to rapidly increase the rate at which it cuts its carbon emissions. It was a landmark legal case that could lead to similar rulings.

Then, shareholders went against ExxonMobil’s management and backed an activist investor group to elect at least two new board members. The group said the company’s continued focus on fossil fuels means it faces “existential risk.”

Meanwhile, shareholders in Chevron voted for a resolution calling for the US’s second-biggest oil company to substantially reduce its emissions from the products it sells.

Total is the next company to face shareholder pressure, with voting underway on Thursday on the French oil major’s climate policy. Greenpeace France and other groups are urging shareholders to vote against the blueprint and have criticized its plans for new oil projects.

“Seismic votes at Exxon and Chevron send a clear message: shareholders can force real action on climate, if they have the courage of their convictions,” said Lucie Pinson, founder and executive director of campaign group Reclaim Finance.

Investors reacted cautiously to the announcements, with Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total all down around 1 to 2% by early afternoon in Europe on Thursday.

Read more: Citigroup is zeroing in on clients moving towards clean energy in what a senior banker described as a ‘super-mega trend’

But executives at the oil majors were given a jolt. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive of Exxon, said: “We heard from shareholders today about their desire to further these efforts, and we are well positioned to respond.”

All the more concerning for Exxon was that huge institutional investors such as BlackRock voted with small hedge fund Engine No. 1, which put forward new directors. BlackRock said: “Exxon’s energy transition strategy falls short of what is necessary to ensure the company’s financial resilience in a low carbon economy.”

BlackRock cited the International Energy Agency’s 2050 net zero report, which said earlier in May all new fossil fuel projects must stop if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F). Campaigners said the report appeared to have encouraged shareholders to step up their focus on climate issues.

Yet there were signs that the oil majors will not let campaigners and activists have it all their way. Shell said it intended to appeal the “disappointing” Dutch court ruling that said the oil company must cut emissions by 45% from 2019 levels by 2030.

“Urgent action is needed on climate change which is why we have accelerated our efforts to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050, in step with society,” a Shell spokesperson said.

Total has also committed to being carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner. But activists say that, although the European oil majors have made stronger commitments than their US peers, they still need to be doing more.

Reclaim Finance said the big oil firms must halt all new fossil fuel projects, in line with the IEA’s recommendations.

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An activist investor with a 0.02% stake in Exxon ousted 2 of the oil giant’s board members in a historic win

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  • Activist investor Engine No. 1 was victorious in winning at least two board seats on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors.
  • The win was historic given that the first time activist investor built a tiny 0.02% stake in the company.
  • The proxy fight between the activist investor and Exxon Mobil signals the increased investor attention towards green energy initiatives.
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Activist investor Engine No. 1 scored a historic win on Wednesday after it won two board seats on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors.

A bitter proxy fight between the major oil company and the small activist investor circled around green energy initiatives, executive pay, and the diversification of Exxon’s fossil fuel business.

The win took many by surprise given that Engine No. 1 is a first time activist investor with just a 0.02% stake in Exxon. Typical activist investor campaigns have been led by well-known Wall Street figures who buy a position upwards 10% in the targeted company.

The win by Engine No. 1 highlighted the growing appetite among investors for corporations to tackle climate change and green energy initiatives head-on. Many top institutional investors view addressing the climate as essential for a successful long-term business, including BlackRock founder and CEO Larry Fink.

Exxon was staunchly against Engine No. 1’s two board nominees, Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala. Exxon CEO Darren Woods refused to meet with the nominees and told shareholders that voting for them would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend,” according to Bloomberg.

Just two-days before today’s annual shareholder meeting, the company pledged that it would add two new directors to its board to counter-balance the potential addition of Goff and Hietala.

Other fossil-fuel companies have seen a revolt among shareholders in vote proposals. Chevron, DuPont de Nemours, and ConocoPhillips have all seen their shareholders issue rebukes to management by voting in favor of various proposals centered on climate change, Bloomberg highlighted.

Two board seats on Exxon remain undecided, and one or both of them could still potentially be awarded to Engine No. 1. Whether Woods will take the advice of the new board members and pivot towards a greener future remains to be seen.

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