Exxon admits climate change denial is a problem

Posted by jamie — 29 May 2008 at 10:25am - Comments

It's long been known that energy giant ExxonMobil has been pumping money into organisations and think tanks which have spread confusion and doubt about climate change. Our own ExxonSecrets project has been exposing the links between the company and these outspoken bodies for several years.

But in Exxon's new Corporate Citizenship report (pdf), it admits that encouraging scepticism and denial "could divert attention away from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner". Or, in other words, taking action on climate change. More than that, it will also stop funding some of the worst of the climate denial groups.

The admission is buried away on page 41 of the report but it shows how the company is beginning to change since arch-sceptic and CEO Lee Raymond left a couple of years ago. Dropping climate denial groups from their Christmas card list also started around the same time when the particularly virulent Competitive Enterprise Institute stopped receiving funds, but now a further nine groups (what ExxonSecret's Kert Davies has called the "engine room of the climate sceptic industry") will be dropped.

It's a small start but Exxon still has a loooong way to go as another 28 organisations are still on the payroll, and the damage these groups have done to progress in tackling climate change is huge, especially the role they've played in keeping the US from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

Then yesterday, at the AGM held in Dallas, a group of shareholders led by members of the Rockefeller family pushed for the company to take greater action on climate change. They put forward a resolution to split the roles of chairman and chief executive (currently held by one man, Rex Tillerson), and appoint a chairman who will invest more in alternative technologies. The resolution didn't pass, but the fact that just shy of 40 per cent of shareholders voted in favour seems to indicate there's a growing movement amongst investors to shift Exxon in a different direction, although other resolutions to push investment into cleaner energy also didn't pass.

This has also put Exxon's PR people on the defensive and after being tight-lipped on anything to do with efficiency or renewable energies, they've begun trumpeting the developments they've made, although they still seem to be concentrating on oil technologies rather than diverging into new areas. But with other companies such as BP and Shell (held up as examples of investors in clean energy) digging up tar sands and divesting their interests in solar power respectively, can a multinational oil company ever truly change its spots?

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About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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