Congress Committee Says Documents Show Big Oil Greenwashing

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(Bloomberg) -- A House congressional committee said internal documents from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Shell Plc and BP Plc reveal that their public promises to fight climate change amount to greenwashing.

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A cache of emails, lobbying and preparation materials for senior executives obtained by the Committee on Oversight and Reform show that Big Oil climate pledges rely on “unproven technology, accounting gimmicks and misleading language to hide the reality,” Subcommittee Chair Ro Khanna said in an emailed statement.

Shell touted an ambitious path to achieve net-zero emissions but internally emphasized that this had “nothing to do with our business plans,” emails showed. Exxon sought to water down statements from the industry’s Oil and Gas Climate Initiative to remove a pledge to uphold the Paris Agreement.

“Creating a tie between our advocacy/engagements and the Paris Agreement could create a potential commitment to advocate on the Paris Agreement goals,” an Exxon executive said in a briefing note to CEO Darren Woods in August 2019.

The committee released the emails after a year-long investigation into whether Big Oil misled the public on climate change, a claim the industry denies. A hearing on the issue was set for Thursday.

“As we face more deadly, extreme weather around the globe, fossil fuel companies are reaping record profits and ramping up their misleading PR tactics to distract from their central role in fueling the climate crisis,” Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement.

Shell has been producing climate pathways for decades “and it’s widely understood they are not prescriptions, predictions or meant to represent Shell’s current business plan,” the company said in a statement.

Exxon “has supported the Paris Agreement from its inception in 2015 and continues to support US government participation in the framework,” it said in a statement. BP said it has set near-term targets consistent with its ambition to become a net-zero company by 2050.

(Updates with company comments at end)

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