Here’s a neat top ten that I came across recently from Jacqueline Patterson at the environmental and climate justice department of the NAACP. It summarises ten common tactics that the fossil fuel industry uses to delay action on climate change, with a full report detailing each one here. They’re not just used by fossil fuel companies either, but many others with a vested interest in the status quo. With some notes from me on each of them, here they are:
1. Invest in efforts that undermine democracy – the most notorious example in the US is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provides off-the-shelf policies to suit corporates. We’ve also seen fossil fuel companies recently try to use trade deals to change the rules in their favour, with plastics in Kenya, and we can expect similar moves when Britain negotiates its post-Brexit deals.
2. Finance political campaigns and pressure politicians – see the vast donations pouring into the US election, with 85% of donations from oil and gas interests going to the Trump campaign.
3. Fund scientists and scientific institutions to publish biased research studies – exhibit A in this one is the Koch Foundation, which has made so many strategic investments in universities that there is an entire organisation dedicated to undoing the damage, Unkoch My Campus.
4. Contend that government regulations hurt the economy, taxpayers, and poor people – with the support of the tabloid press, blaming energy prices on renewable energy has been a popular game for the utilities and fossil fuel companies over the last decade.
5. Deny or understate the harms polluting facilities cause to people and the environment – this one strikes me as being a key tactic for business interests during the pandemic too, such the Great Barrington declaration calling for ‘herd immunity’, which comes from yet another Koch funded think tank.
6. Deflect responsibility – Shift blame to the very communities they pollute. I only learned this year that the popularity of personal carbon footprinting is partly down to a PR campaign by BP – making it your job to stop climate change, not theirs.
7. Exaggerate the level of job creation and downplay lack of quality and safety of jobs – almost unbelievably, a new coal mine project was given the green light this month in Cumbria, because of the promise of jobs. (In order to meet Britain’s net zero by 2050 target, it will have to close in 2049, which is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.)
8. Pacify or co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interests and opinions of communities – see the way Heathrow wooed the unions to get support for a third runway, or the promises of local payments to communities that supported fracking.
9. Praise false solutions while claiming that real solutions are impractical or impossible – airlines and even fossil fuel companies are very enthusiastic about trees right now. Which is great, but not if it’s a deflection from the real issue of not putting CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place.
10. ‘Embrace’ renewables, seek to control the new energy economy, and quell energy sovereignty – BP recently bought the Chargemaster network to get into electric vehicle charging, while Shell have launched a home energy service offering 100% renewable energy. This recasts them as clean energy, while also positioning them as gatekeepers for the energy transition.