By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud
A new report published by the market research company Packaged Facts suggests that 23% of American consumers have eaten plant-based meat products — and an additional 37% are interested in trying them. Is this the future?
Bruce Friedrich is the founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute (GFI), an international non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that strives for alternatives to conventional agriculture products. DW's environment podcast team "On the Green Fence" spoke with Bruce about the future of food as part of a series on meat consumption.
DW: What, in your opinion, is wrong with eating meat?
Industrial animal meat production causes more climate change than all forms of transportation combined. The United Nations looked at it. It said whatever issue we're looking at from an environmental standpoint, industrial meat production is one of the top three causes - species loss, soil, desertification, water pollution. Right now, we're all living through COVID-19, and the UN Environment Program just a couple of months ago asked, "How do we prevent the next COVID-19?" They listed seven things, and the first one was that we need less industrial animal meat production.
Ok, so eating meat is harming the Earth and humanity. But that collective knowledge isn't going to stop us, is it?
Part of the problem is that for 50 years, environmentalists and global health experts and animal activists have been begging the public to eat less meat. And it's just not working. It's been a colossal failure. People are eating more and more meat even in developed economies. The UN is predicting we're going to need to produce 50 to 100% more meat by 2050.
So instead of doing that, let's give people everything that they like about meat. Let's give people meat, but let's make it from plants and grow it directly from cells. And we'll have a fraction of the negative environmental consequences, including a fraction of the impact on the climate. It will free up vast quantities of land for carbon sequestration. It won't require any antibiotics. We should be able to get to a place where it tastes exactly the same and gives people everything that they like about meat, but at a lower cost because of the efficiency gains.
But do you seriously believe that the majority of meat eaters will switch to plant-based products voluntarily?
What is meat? It's made up of lipids, amino acids, minerals and water. That's all it is. That stuff exists in plants. Scientists can solve this problem by bio-mimicking meat from plants. And for people who just want to eat animal meat, we can use standard tissue engineering techniques. We can grow meat directly from cells. It will be a healthier and more efficient product that frees up vast quantities of land. It's really a win-win-win. We need a new space race essentially focused on food. The government that manages to divorce meat production from the need for living animals is going to have bragging rights until the end of time.
McDonald's has announced plans to launch a plant-based line of products in 2021. How important is this development?
McDonald's has more restaurants and more revenue than any other restaurant chain on the planet. They introduced America to the chicken nugget, and we expect that they will be introducing millions more Americans to plant-based meat with their plant line. When they do something, they do it deliberately, and they do it on a massive scale. So this means that they are certain there will be sustained demand, and that an assured supply chain will be in place by the time they launch. This is a massive development for the plant-based meat industry.
So aside from McDonald's diversifying its product range, just how great a role do alternative meat products play in the market right now?
This is still very early days - we are still looking at products that are significantly less than 1% of the volume of meat sales. But animal meat production is pretty much as efficient as it is going to get and that is vastly inefficient. The most efficient animal at turning crops into meat is the chicken. It takes nine calories in the form of crops to get one calorie back out from a chicken. So the physiology of the chicken dictates 800% food waste. As plant-based products scale up, prices will come down and they will just become better and better environmentally when compared to industrial animal meat.
What do you see as the main obstacles to getting these alternative products into the mass market?
The only way to get mainstream acceptance is if the products taste the same or better and cost the same or less. And we are not there yet. The products cost more and often don't give meat eaters everything they're looking for from a taste profile perspective.
What about lab-grown meat? Is this a promising product or a dead end in your eyes?
We are very bullish on cultivating meat directly from cells. If you're going to grow a chicken to slaughter weight and again, chicken is the animal that gets to slaughter weight most quickly, you're going to have to plan years in advance to grow the crops, to feed the chicken. You need an entire flock of breeder animals. And even just the process of growing the chicken is going to take you six to seven weeks before it goes to the abattoir. With cultivated meat production, you can get that same growth in six days, not six weeks. So this is something we're super enthusiastic about at this point.
How do you respond to critics who say that fake meat products are pumped full of unhealthy additives?
That's just absurd. When you look at what makes a product healthy or unhealthy, we know that around 97% of people in Europe and North America are not consuming enough fiber. The most important macronutrients to be consuming are complex carbohydrates and fiber. Animal meat has none of either. Plant-based meat is an excellent source of both. We're supposed to be eating less saturated fat, less or no cholesterol and no trans fats.
Plant-based meat vastly outperforms animal meat across all of these metrics as well. A study done by the Stanford School of Medicine showed that in just eight weeks the plant-based products caused statistically significant improvement in heart disease risk factors. They are clearly much healthier.
So when will these plant-based products actually make the inroads you're hoping for?
On our current trajectory, meat production just goes up and up. 2019 was the highest per capita meat consumption in recorded history. This is planet-on-fire stuff. The former head of the World Health Organization said, we are literally looking at the end of modern medicine due to antibiotic resistance.
So, this is a global health crisis and an environmental crisis. We really need more entrepreneurs and more scientists to focus on this. And governments really need to wake up to the fact that this is deserving of lots of resources. Right now. It's just getting drops, but it needs to get a fire hose.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Much of what we've been able to learn about the underwater world has built on the legacy of underwater explorer and pioneer Jacques Yves Cousteau. In 1943, Cousteau invented the aqua-lung, which completed his self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA). This technology forever changed how humans interact with the blue world and remains the precursor of modern-day scuba diving equipment.
Cousteau's eldest grandson, Fabien, was born to continue his grandfather's legacy. Fabien learned to scuba dive on his fourth birthday and joined his famous grandfather on his legendary ships, the Calypso and Alcyone. Now, the younger Cousteau is following in his grandfather's footsteps and bubbles, taking the ocean exploration and conservation he grew up with and giving it a modern, technology-driven, community-focused revamp.
EcoWatch recently joined Fabien and members of his team at the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC) on marine debris cleanup dives in the Florida Keys. Funded and organized by the "Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys" program, the program is a partnership between the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Blue Star Diving Operators, who are trained in the best practices for marine debris removal. The community-led collaboration grew out of the devastating aftermath from Hurricane Irma in Sept. 2017, which displaced approximately 154,000 lobster traps, many of which were dragged across sensitive ocean habitats for up to 15 miles. In its first year alone, trained operators helped remove more than 10,000 pounds of marine debris from sanctuary waters. Now in its third year, the program teamed up with locals from the Florida Keys and the FCOLC team to spread ocean awareness and remove traps from local coral reefs.
During a clean-up dive, Fabien Cousteau and Jesus Gudino use lift bags to bring derelict lobster traps up from the seafloor. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
While helping the environment, EcoWatch took the opportunity to interview aquanaut and ocean conservationist Fabien about all things ocean.
EcoWatch reporter Tiffany Duong (far right) joins Fabien Cousteau and FCOLC members Martín Molina Castellnon and Pamela Fletcher for a marine debris clean-up. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
Tiffany Duong (EcoWatch): First, how much debris did we take off the reefs today?
Fabien Cousteau: 664.8 pounds — we smashed the old record!
Fabien Cousteau removes rope tangled around a coral reef in the Florida Keys. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
EW: Why oceans? What's the appeal?
FC: When one has experienced the ocean world, it's impossible to turn your back on it. It's a privilege and a responsibility to share the adventure and the passion with other... And, I love it. I'm addicted to oceans.
EW: What is your favorite thing about the oceans?
FC: The sense of being, the sense of community. The sense of tranquility that it gives. The fact that it gives us everything that we require as well as the things that make us — the intangibles that give us our humanity.
EW: How do you remember your grandfather?
FC: I had the luck of spending the first 30 years of my life with my grandfather around. For years, maybe the first decade and a half, I just saw him as my grandfather. We would see him in family gatherings, whether in the field or at home. He would tell us stories. He would be how I imagine most grandparents are — very interested in their grandchildren and spending time with them. It wasn't until we were in a Japanese restaurant in New York City one day and people kept coming up to our table to interrupt our family time asking for him to sign things that I realized our grandfather wasn't just for us. We were sharing him with the world. And that's when I realized — very naïve of me — what an iconic public figure he was, especially for the ocean world.
Fabien Cousteau is pictured with his pioneering grandfather, Jacques Yves Cousteau. Fabien Cousteau
EW: Why should others care about the oceans?
FC: Without the oceans, we're a brown rock in space like all the others. The oceans set our planet apart and allow us to survive and thrive. We share the planet with all kinds of sentient beings. To envision a better future, we have to live in symbiosis with all of them.
EW: What's the current state of the planet?
FC: We're facing a terminal illness if we don't do something. It's not trite to say that... As a species, we are directly responsible for our very own future. We're the only species that can do that, that can determine its own future. And that's the most fundamentally important thing everyone needs to understand.
Fabien Cousteau is an aquanaut, ocean advocate and conservationist. Carrie Vonderhaar
EW: You're not just taking this sitting down. Tell us about the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center and what you're trying to do.
FC: The mission is to educate, empower and engage. It's based on a quote my grandpa told me as a kid: People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they're taught. The only way we're getting out of this is if we fill the proverbial bucket together one drop at a time — one action at a time. We're all responsible for what we see today, so the solution isn't from one source like myself or an individual doing their best, it's all of us pitching in.
EW: What does that look like for you and FCOLC?
FC: We all need to do our part and invest in ocean protection, conservation and science. Our Nicaragua program is a great example of all three.
(Editorial Note: Per FCLOC Nicaragua Program Manager Pamela Fletcher and Operations Manager Martín Molina Castellnon, the Nicaragua program addressed three phases, and involves mangrove restoration and sea turtle conservation.)
- Phase 1 involved the local and indigenous communities in mangrove restoration. As a critical blue carbon sink, mangroves sequester more carbon than any other plant or tree, Fabien noted.
- Phase 2 evolved into the current sea turtle conservation project. Nesting beaches of several species are patrolled, and nests are protected from poachers. Eggs are then relocated to guarded hatcheries, and the community and local university students are empowered to create a future in conservation and science.
- Phase 3, which has already started, will grow to include the empowerment of local women and girls. In transitioning the conservation program management to them, they take on the responsibility of protecting sea turtles and spreading awareness to their local communities. This builds the foundation for girls to envision a future in conservation and STEM. Girls and women also learn the tools for making conservation a viable business that can sustain them and their families.
Pamela Fletcher: Our biggest success is the shift we're seeing in how [the girls helping with the sea turtle program] value themselves in the community and value protecting these amazing species.
Martín Molina Castellnon: In Nicaragua, these things are all managed by men, and we transitioned them to be women. It's taken off like a rocket. One little girl who's only eight years old has been in the program for two years, and she collects plastics, brings them to school and tells her friends about what's happening in the oceans. She's our future pioneer.
FC: She's a trailblazer.
MMC: Women empowerment has really changed their lives. And, it's made a big difference in the community.
Proteus is a new prototype underwater research station that could revolutionize how research is conducted and what it can uncover. Yves Béhar / Fuseproject
EW: Now, tell me about Proteus.
(Editorial Note: Proteus is a conceptual underwater research station that Fabien hopes will change how underwater research is tackled. It will be the world's largest and most advanced underwater habitat located 60 feet below the surface in Curaçao. The goal is for it to be completely modular and customizable, run by renewable energy and filled with cutting-edge technology.)
FC: This is a very large project. Proteus will be like the International Space Station of the sea. That was by design, and it's meant to give people that image because a lot of science will be coming out of it. Educational components and broadcasting will be for the social good, for the benefit of humanity and the planet. Underwater habitats are the missing tool in underwater exploration. It doesn't take away from ships, ROVs, probes, scuba, etc. — it's something that fills a big gap we currently have.
EW: What gives you hope?
FC: What's exciting to me is that we know so little about the oceans. We've explored only five percent. That's a huge opportunity. But, we also need to understand we're having a huge impact on our oceans, too. We're treating it as a garbage can, but really, it's a closed-loop system that we're banking on. Now, that bank account is going bankrupt, so we need to fill it back up.
EW: Any advice to those reading?
FC: Protect the ocean as if your life depended on it — because it does.
Locals joined Fabien Cousteau and his team from the FCOLC for a marine debris cleanup dive in the Florida Keys. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
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The "America the Beautiful" report, released by the Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Agriculture, includes few specifics but conceptualizes how the U.S. can better protect and restore biodiversity, improve the resilience of ecosystems to climate change, and increase the accessibility of the nation's parks and wilderness areas. The document devotes significant attention to social justice, noting the government's campaigns that forced Indigenous Peoples from their lands and discriminatory policies that have limited opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities to access natural spaces.
"Together, these three issues pose grave risks to the abundance, resilience, and accessibility of the natural resources that are at the foundation of America's economy and well-being. These challenges, however, also present opportunities," states the document, which goes on to point out the potential for the "30×30" plan to create job opportunities and drive more sustainable economic growth, while combatting the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.
Kayakers off the Hawaiian coastline. Rhett A. Butler
The report envisions farms and ranches functioning as wildlife corridors and carbon sinks, fishery management practices that stabilize fish stocks, and a job creation plan through a Civilian Climate Corps akin to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. It also proposes creating more "safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities" and supporting tribally-led conservation and restoration initiatives as well as increasing access for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, and hiking across public lands that are currently inaccessible.
Given the potential Congressional opposition to the Biden Administration's agenda, the report tried to put emphasis on the bipartisan nature of conservation, including a number of statements from a range of organizations, coalitions, and lobby groups on their visions for "30×30", including what the policy could entail and deliver for their constituencies. For example, the American Farmland Trust called farmers, ranchers, and foresters "essential allies in the effort to reach the 30×30 goals for biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation."
"To be successful, these policies must embrace USDA's legacy of voluntary, incentive-based, and locally led conservation and be strategically targeted," said the group.
The Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Rhett A. Butler
A letter from Tribal Leaders and Tribal organization leaders published in the report said 30×30 needed to recognize the stewardship and sovereignty of Tribal Nations.
"Tribal Nations are key to the success of the 30×30 policy initiative in the U.S. as they are intrinsically linked, presently and historically, to existing and prospective protected areas. Tribal Nations are the original stewards of these lands and waters and have been the most effective managers and protectors of biodiversity since time immemorial," stated the letter. "The 30×30 policy serves as a vitally important opportunity to safeguard the environment, Tribal cultural values, strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship, and uphold Tribal sovereignty and self-determination."
Protecting 30 percent of the planet has emerged in recent years as an ambition of a number of countries, organizations, and movements. Proponents of the approach say it could help humanity make progress toward addressing some of the most critical environmental problems we've created, from the extinction crisis to climate change.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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China now emits more greenhouse gas pollution than the 37 member nations of the OECD combined, a new report from the Rhodium Group says.
China's climate pollution has increased dramatically in recent decades and its cumulative emissions since 1750 are still far smaller than the cumulative pollution emitted by OECD nations.
China now accounts for more than a quarter of global climate pollution, well over double the U.S., Earth's second-largest polluter, which accounts for 11% of global climate pollutants.
China's much larger population, however, means its per-capita emissions are still far lower than the U.S., which remains the world's worst polluter per-capita.
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Global inequality isn't just a problem for human populations. A new study has found that it is also a major factor in the wildlife trade.
The research, published in Science Advances Wednesday, found that wild animals were more likely to be traded from poorer nations to wealthier ones, and this could be the key to reducing a traffic that harms endangered species and public health.
"Our findings suggest that international policies for reducing the global wildlife trade should address inequalities between signatory states," the study authors wrote.
The trade in wildlife is a major cause of biodiversity loss, the study authors noted. Not only does it remove species from their ecosystems at unsustainable rates, it also risks introducing invasive species into new environments and bringing diseases like amphibian chytrid fungus to new populations. This last threat is a problem for humans too, and the wildlife trade has been linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
To better understand this problem, researchers looked at data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the trade on an international level. The study authors, who are based in Hong Kong and Singapore, compared CITES data on international wild animal sales with socioeconomic information about the countries involved, as Phys.org explained.
They found that around 420 million wild animals were trafficked between 226 countries from 1998 to 2018. These animals were more likely to be traded from poorer to wealthier countries. For example, BBC News pointed out, wild frogs travel from Madagascar to the U.S., while fish caught in Thailand are sent to Hong Kong.
Overall, the U.S. was the No. 1 importer of wild animals, with France and Italy trailing behind in second and third place, the study found. Indonesia, Jamaica, and Honduras were the largest exporters on a country-by-country basis, while most wild animals on the market either came from Asia or the Panamanian region.
While the scale of this trade is enormous, the findings also suggest a solution, as study lead author Jia Huan Liew of the University of Hong Kong told BBC News. Liew argued that poorer, exporting countries should be given financial help to stop the trade over a period of time. The money would only become available if the country met its reduction targets.
"Funding would ideally be drawn from wealthy countries, given their commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and the fact that they play a disproportionately large role in the global wildlife market," Liev told BBC News.
The findings also come at a crucial moment for change, as the world has woken up to the dangers posed by wildlife trafficking in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to a temporary ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals in China.
"To avoid returning to business as usual, we should take advantage of the public's awareness of the possible consequences of consuming wildlife products to reduce demand, and make the Chinese ban on wildlife consumption permanent," Liew told BBC News.
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By Rich Collett-White and Rachel Sherrington
Fossil fuel companies could face legal challenges over their misleading advertising, after a DeSmog investigation uncovered the extent of their "greenwashing."
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have put companies on notice with the publication of the Greenwashing Files. The analyses, which use DeSmog's research, show how adverts of major fossil fuel companies and energy producers continue to overemphasize their green credentials, giving the public a misleading impression of their businesses.
DeSmog analyzed the advertising output of Aramco, Chevron, Drax, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Ineos, RWE, Shell and Total, and compared this with the reality of the companies' current and future business activities.
ClientEarth submitted a complaint against BP's advertising in 2019, before the company decided to withdraw its "Possibilities Everywhere" campaign. The lawyers say other fossil fuel companies could face similar challenges if they mislead the public through their advertising. The group is calling for tobacco-style advertising bans and health warnings to counter fossil fuel companies' "deceptive" marketing.
DeSmog's investigation found messaging that touts companies' climate pledges without being transparent about their large emissions contributions is widespread across advertising campaigns and social media promotions.
The adverts regularly highlight the companies' preferred solutions to climate change — from carbon capture and storage, to experimental algae biofuels, and investment in renewable energy sources — without being open about the small percentage of overall investment allocated to these technologies, nor their various limitations.
The Greenwashing Files lay bare the contrast between the public image these adverts create, and the reality of the fossil fuel companies' activities.
All companies featured in this article were contacted for comment.
ExxonMobil – 'Powering Progress'
"We're working on ways to provide energy while addressing the risks of climate change, producing clean-burning natural gas to reduce emissions from power plants, capturing CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere, and exploring unexpected energy sources like biofuels made from algae," a reassuring voice tells us in Exxon's "Powering Progress" advert – one of several released in recent years that present the US oil giant as a leader in green technologies.
But while the ad shows Exxon scientists hard at work developing "algae farms" and technology designed to suck carbon dioxide from the air, its business activities tell a different story.
Exxon is increasingly an outlier among fossil fuel companies and other major emitters, having refused to set an absolute emissions reduction target, opting instead for gradual "carbon intensity" reductions which still allow for overall emissions to increase. It has no plans to cut oil and gas production, which energy analysts say is urgently needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
While Exxon remains responsible for a significant portion of global emissions – with documents in 2019 revealing a total annual output roughly equivalent to that of Canada – its spending on clean energies has been a tiny fraction of its investments, with just 0.2 percent of its investment in new projects going to low carbon sources between 2010 and 2018.
And while "Powering Progress" and other ads put Exxon's investments in algae biofuels at the fore, it has spent just $300 million on the technology in a decade, compared with yearly capital investment of around $20 billion. Experts doubt whether the technology will ever be commercially viable or usable at scale.
RWE – 'We are the new RWE'
A video by German energy giant RWE takes the viewer through landmark inventions that have spurred on human civilisation since the industrial revolution – the light bulb, the radio, mass transport – before arriving at the present day. "Every time has its energy," the ad tells us, adding that "times are changing. Society is changing. Companies are changing, and we are changing too."
The images cut to wind turbines, and the forces of nature that are powering what we are told is today's "renewable age." The company positions itself at the heart of this transition, telling the viewer it is "focusing on renewable energies and storage, for a sustainable world," and that it is providing "clean, reliable and affordable" energy as part of its transition to "the new RWE."
The campaign accompanies pledges to become "carbon neutral" by 2040 and oversee a significant expansion into wind and solar energy.
But the growth of RWE's low-carbon activities has not been matched by an exit from fossil fuels. RWE remains the largest emitter in Europe, according to a recent study by Greenpeace, and its three major lignite coal-fired power stations all feature in the EU's top five highest-emitting plants. Under current plans, it will continue to generate coal-fired electricity until the end of 2038, almost a decade after the deadline recommended for OECD countries by climate experts, at the same time as expanding its already significant fossil gas business.
Despite its claims to focus on clean energy, 80 percent of the company's energy still comes from non-renewable sources, mostly highly-polluting brown coal, hard coal and gas. The company also counts controversial and carbon-intensive biomass amongst its "renewable" energy sources despite warnings from scientists over its use.
Drax – 'Beyond Coal'
Drax, another energy company that now relies heavily on biomass and operates the UK's largest power station in North Yorkshire, has worked hard to bolster its green credentials in recent years, positioning itself as an ally in the fight against climate change.
Last year, it released an advert celebrating the company's shift away from coal-fired energy production, which it completed in March. Set to an uplifting soundtrack, the video calls the move a "major step towards Drax's ambition to become carbon negative by 2030," while touting a new "Zero Carbon Skills Taskforce" to ensure the surrounding area "isn't defined by its past, but by its future."
A 2020 year-in-review video meanwhile describes Drax as "among Europe's lowest carbon intensity power generators," producing "77 percent renewable electricity."
But the company's claims about the climate-friendliness of biomass, which has now taken over from coal as the principal source of energy at its power station thanks to generous government subsidies, have been widely disputed. Burning wood pellets has been found to be more carbon-intensive than fossil fuels in most circumstances, while experts doubt that trees planted in their place can re-absorb the carbon dioxide emitted, on a meaningful timescale.
Carbon capture and storage – another key plank of Drax's low-carbon strategy – remains uneconomical at scale, with the company's own use of the technology still in the pilot phase.
In response to questions from DeSmog, Drax said emissions from biomass energy are "already accounted for in the land-use sector and therefore considered carbon neutral at the point of combustion," in line with "established global best practice" set out by the UN IPCC.
It also said biomass should be considered renewable "because the forests we source from are growing and storing more carbon" and pointed to its plans for a bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) unit by 2027, "creating tens of thousands of jobs" and "permanently removing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year."
Aramco – 'The Moment is Now'
The Saudi Arabian state-owned oil and gas giant, Aramco, became the most valuable listed company in history when it floated on the stock market at the end of 2019. But the fossil fuel behemoth is at pains to assure viewers it is concerned about more than just its bottom line.
In an advert titled "The Moment is Now," an Aramco employee tells a lecture theatre full of colleagues that "as we open up to the world, we know more than ever before that we must continue towards a sustainable future."
"We value the natural resources we discover but never forget it is our human energy that drives us to create a better world," she says to the audience, who reward her presentation with a standing ovation.
Elsewhere, the company insists it is driven by a "commitment to preserving the environment because protecting our planet is one of our most important values."
That's despite the company being the world's largest corporate greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for an estimated four percent of all global emissions since 1965.
Aramco's oil and gas reserves total more than those of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total combined, while the company refuses to disclose its full emissions. Its majority shareholder, the Saudi Arabian government, has been at the forefront of efforts to stall international action on climate change for decades. At the last UN climate talks in Madrid, over a third of Saudi Arabia's representatives were associated with the oil and gas industry, many with Aramco.
Equinor – 'This is what changed us.'
Previously trading under the name Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company Equinor rebranded in 2018, with the hope of highlighting its transformation into a "broad energy company" and its growing low-carbon energy division.
Equinor explained its reasons for the name change in an advert called "Equinor. This is what changed us." Scenes of raging storms and melting ice caps are displayed while the narrator says: "Some changes are so profound that they transcend everything. Changes that require us to find a new balance."
In a more recent ad, the company insists that "emissions must come down and it must happen fast."
Equinor is certainly taking steps to increase its investments in low-carbon technologies, with plans to up its renewable energy capacity to 4-6 gigawatts by 2026, and has set a "net zero" emissions target for 2050.
But this shift is largely in addition to, rather than in place of, its core oil and gas business. The company is still exploring for more oil and gas reserves and does not intend to start reducing its fossil fuel production before 2030. Last year, it opened the largest oil field in Western Europe and is heavily involved in ventures in the Arctic.
Equinor promotes natural gas as the "perfect fuel to balance renewable energy" and was given a warning two years ago by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority for claiming the fuel was a "low-carbon" energy source.
Another technology the company touts is carbon capture and storage (CCS), but all of the projects it is involved in currently amount to less than three percent of its overall emissions.
ClientEarth lawyer Johnny White said the collection of adverts showed the fossil fuel companies were involved in a "great deception."
"We need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. But instead of leading a low-carbon transition, these companies are putting out advertising which distracts the public and launders their image," he said.
"These adverts are misrepresenting the true nature of companies' businesses, of their contribution to climate change, and of their transition plans," he added, saying that "we cannot underestimate the real world impact this advertising has on the pace of change."
You can find the full set of adverts and analyses here.
Additional research by Michaela Herrmann. Edited by Mat Hope.
Disclaimer: ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac sits on the board of DeSmog UK Ltd.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.