December 11, 2023

Biggest climate deniers, blockers, and fossil fuel PR firms attend COP28

Shills for Chevron, Exxon, Shell, and Total among those at UN climate talks

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Fossil fuel corporations aren’t the only ones flooding climate talks. As analysis by Corporate Accountability finds, some of the fossil fuel industry’s most vocal surrogates for climate denial and propaganda are well-represented. What’s more, these climate obstructors have been attending talks since at least 2000.

The fact that entities like U.S.-based FTI Consulting, known for attacking climate scientists, or the American Petroleum Institute (API), bankroller of denial groups, are allowed to influence all-too-critical negotiations punctuates the need for an Accountability Framework the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) currently lacks.

“The fossil fuel industry is pulling out every stop to secure their future in an ever changing world and climate,” said Tom BK Goldtooth (Diné/ Dakota) of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Fossil fuel companies and big oil States are bringing their lobbyists and endless PR support to control, twist, and greenwash their narrative to ensure the global economy remains one of extraction. Parties spend more time and resources entertaining and maintaining false solutions than taking true and just climate action by phasing out fossil fuels emissions at source. These PR stunts are nothing short of concealing crimes against humanity and the sacredness of our Mother Earth.”

Among the notorious actors Corporate Accountability identified:

Edelman: The “dominant PR firm for trade associations that promote an anti-environmental agenda,” Edelman registered more than 60 people to attend COP28. With a history of working with the world’s largest fossil fuel interests, inventing false public support for the Keystone XL pipeline, and running PR campaigns to block climate legislation, its CEO is attending as a paid guest of the host country. (Host countries and UN leadership teams have a track record of hiring questionable PR firms to support their COP presidencies.) The PR firm has also been implicated in a pivot by fossil fuel corporations from denying climate change to “falsely suggesting that oil and gas are a central part of the climate-solutions mix.”

WPP: With 55 contracts with fossil fuel corporations through its holding companies as of 2023—more than any other PR firm in the world—some of WPP’s clients (BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies) accounted for nearly 98 percent of all greenwashing and fossil fuel disinformation on Facebook this year.

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI): Bankrolled in large part by a dark money fund with a history of supporting far-right hate groups like the white supremacist media outlet VDARE, CEI has been a regular presence at talks for 20 years. A former longtime director at CEI and now Senior Fellow, Myron Ebell, is known as one of the world’s most prominent climate change deniers and for architecting the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under the Trump Administration.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI): The group has been promoting climate denialism since the 1990s, when it played a leading role in the formation of the now defunct Global Climate Coalition, an industry group that spread extensive climate disinformation. Its new president-elect, Trump’s former Energy Secretary, continues to publicly question scientific consensus on climate change.

FTI Consulting: Known as one of the most ruthless fossil fuel PR firms, “[t]hey run front groups, fake news channels, they pose as reporters, they write reports for activists.” They’ve been caught creating fake pro-fracking and gas exploration websites and come under congressional investigation for deceptive PR tactics and misleading the public on climate change.

Among the other notable registrants with very public track records of climate denial and obstruction, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce registered 27 delegates and BusinessEurope registered 18.

PR firms known for trafficking climate disinformation like Teneo, CARMA, OMNICOM, Brunswick Group, and All About Brands all registered delegations.

“When fossil fuel companies and their cohorts unleash their machinery of lies and deceit at COPs, they don’t only take away the voices of the people but also influence the global climate policy to make sure their polluting, extractive agenda can continue unhindered,” said Blessed Chidhoni of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. “If we want to fight the climate crisis, we need legitimate inclusion of grassroots and frontline communities and for the Big Polluters to be kicked out.


Additional quote:

“Deeply concerning is the inter-sectorial influence these firms have on policy, politics, and public narratives. Some of these PR entities have had ties with food and beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Nestlè, and agro-chemical companies like Bayer and Corteva, implicated in indiscriminately polluting our air, land, and oceans. This research offers realtime evidence of how the tentacles of the industry’s PR machinery are attempting to co-opt, corrode, and corrupt public policy processes and institutions that were founded to protect public health, societal well-being, global peace, and viability of the planet to sustain life.”Ashka Naik, director of research and policy at Corporate Accountability.


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