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    Distraction Techniques For Evading Obligations

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – “Oh yes, we are so very concerned about climate change and the plastic waste crisis – hey, look over there!”  The most basic distraction techniques are being used by the fossil fuel industry to delay any meaningful action on its part, and this needs to stop.  We should be looking upstream, and they want us all to be looking downstream.  The fossil fuel industry has vast financial resources and has organised its campaign on two fronts: the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW).  Under the banner of broadly positive sounding long-term goals, these organisations and their members continue to produce a masterclass in obfuscation and skullduggery.

    Plastic procrastinators

    AEPW members such as PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and BASF use their participation in the initiative as evidence of a genuine sustainability strategy.  They and their more than 70 fellow member companies can share videos and other slick marketing content showing various clean-up and waste collection projects with a particular focus on the developing world, where large-scale waste management is indeed often problematic.  However, an in-depth investigation by Bloomberg published in December 2022 revealed that the scope of many of these projects had been largely exaggerated and that direct AEPW involvement was minimal in many cases.

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    The AEPW was founded by members of – and funding from – the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which is an industry body representing plastic producers.  This may explain its consistent focus on downstream remedial activities such as waste collection and recycling schemes.  AEPW members continue to produce and use more plastic each year, while the organisation’s original target of removing 15 million tons of plastic from the environment within five years has been quietly dropped.  So far, its own figures show that it has only achieved 0.2% of that target.  Moreover, based on typical current recycling rates it is likely that most of the meagre 34,000 tons that were actually collected ended up incinerated or in landfill.

    Fossil fuel fiddlers

    The OGCI follows a similar blueprint to that of the AEPW and shares several of its plastic producing members.  It is made up of 12 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, including Aramco, ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor.  In February this year organisation’s Chair Bob Dudley accepted a role on the upcoming COP28 advisory board.  This move is consistent with the apparent quasi take-over of the COP process by the oil and gas industry, with the conference taking place in a major oil-producing country and presided over by oil company CEO Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber.  The Chair of the OGCI Executive Committee is Bjørn Otto Sverdrup, who was also appointed to Norges Bank Investment Management’s (NBIM) new Climate Advisory Board in January of this year, alongside Jody Freeman who sits on the Board of oil and gas company ConocoPhillips.

    NordSIP’s Laundromat has covered many instances of the “small print” of oil producers’ headline net-zero commitments revealing that they are essentially focused on Scope 1 and 2 emissions.  This is further confirmed by a COP28 organising committee letter leaked to the Financial Times, which describes the planned launch at the conference of a new initiative called the Global Decarbonisation Alliance.  While these industry moves ignore the bulk of oil and gas-related emissions represented by downstream Scope 3 greenhouse gases (GHG), Scope 1 related reductions in methane leaks and flaring activity should be welcomed.  This week new satellite data revealed that the climate impact of methane leaks in Turkmenistan exceeded that of the UK’s entire annual GHG emissions.  Nevertheless, the OGCI seems intent on protecting its members’ ability to continue making enormous profits from extracting yet more oil and gas for years to come, with climate efforts limited to partial technological solutions like carbon capture and greater efficiency within production facilities.

    David v G(oil)iath

    There is an ongoing battle between environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the combined industry power of the fossil fuel and plastics industries.  The membership bases of the AEPW and OGCI have vast financial resources to support powerful PR campaigns and lobbying efforts.  The non-profit NGOs repeatedly expose fossil industry misinformation and disinformation but have minuscule budgets in comparison.  A positive spin on the OGCI and AEPW would be that their formation at least represents an industry acknowledgement that there are climate and waste crises to be addressed – a step up from simple denial.  However, the world should not be taken in by their smoke-and-mirrors and distraction techniques.  Governments and regulators must wrest back control of the debate and steer the focus back upstream to address Scope 3 emissions and implement a genuine phase down (or out) of fossil fuel and plastics production, with large scale investment in sustainable alternatives.  Failing that, perhaps we can rest our remaining hopes on friendly plastic-eating bacteria.

     

    Image courtesy of CDD20 from Pixabay
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