A group of hundreds of scientists is calling on the communications company leading public relations for COP27 to drop fossil fuel clients and commit to further climate action ahead of the event.
In a letter to Hill+Knowlton Strategies, the scientists say the firm’s work for fossil fuel interests such as ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is incompatible with its role in leading public relations for COP27. The letter is signed by more than 420 scientists and organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Harvard University.
COP27 is set to begin on Nov. 6, 2022, in Egypt. A significant focus of the event could be financing sustainability improvements and infrastructure to move international net-zero goals closer to reality.
The Clean Creatives campaign and UCS organized the letter as part of their ongoing work to pressure the public relations and advertising industries to stop working with oil and gas companies and to halt the spread of climate disinformation. They say what Hill+Knowlton communicates alongside summit leaders will impact the development of international policy and shape the views of investors, government leaders, and the public on the outcome of COP27.
Improvements in the fossil fuel industry were listed by the COP26 delegation in its final statement. The science groups commended that move but say progress in United Nations climate negotiations has been slowed in part by industry-funded deception campaigns.
At last year’s COP26, the fossil fuel industry had the most delegates at the summit, according to a report by the BBC. The 503 in attendance with industry connections outnumbered the representation from any individual country.
The oil and gas industry has long focused on making international sustainability improvements. Fossil fuels still account for around 80% of the world’s energy production. Yet, they also account for most of the world’s emissions, especially from the industry’s Scope 3 emissions.
The industry has pledged to make changes and adjustments, and many large companies are investing in technologies such as green hydrogen, renewable natural gas, and carbon capture to aid in energy and lower-emissions transitions. That said, some have questioned the effectiveness of some of those activities, especially carbon capture which is estimated to produce more fossil fuels than eliminate carbon.
More oil and gas companies are also making ESG strategies, according to a report from Haynes and Boone and EnerCom, but few have net-zero goals. According to Sustainable Fitch, the industry needs to go beyond emissions reduction targets and develop transition plans that include changes to business strategy and capital expenditure.
As part of ongoing pressure against this type of marketing, the scientists cite a report that says the oil and gas industry is among the heaviest users of public relations firms. That report says public relations firms are key players in climate politics.
“If PR and advertising agencies want to be part of climate solutions instead of continuing to exacerbate the climate emergency, they should drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil and gas, end work with all fossil fuel companies and trade groups that perpetuate climate deception, cease all work that hinders climate legislation, and instead focus on uplifting the true climate solutions that are already available and must be rapidly implemented at scale,” the scientists say