Photo: ExxonMobil office building in Houston; Source: ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil kicked out of carbon tax alliance after lobbying scandal

The Climate Leadership Council has suspended one of its founding members ExxonMobil several months after a firm’s lobbyist told an undercover activist it only backed a carbon tax as a PR stunt.

The Climate Leadership Council, a bipartisan non-profit organization that advocates for a carbon fee and dividends policy that would tax carbon emissions, was founded in 2017 by oil majors ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, Total, and ExxonMobil along with several NGOs and two secretaries of state.

In a statement from last Friday, the Council’s CEO Greg Bertelsen said: “After careful consideration, we have decided to suspend ExxonMobil’s membership in both the Council and Americans for Carbon Dividends, our advocacy arm.

We continue to believe that we will establish lasting climate solutions by bringing together a broad and diverse group of stakeholders who can work together to address this enormous challenge. This will continue to be our guiding principle”.

The main reason behind this was ExxonMobil senior lobbyist Keith McCoy telling an undercover Greenpeace reporter that the U.S. supermajor supports a carbon tax publicly for the simple reason that it believes it would never gain enough political support to pass as a law.

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During the interview, he was asked if the carbon tax was ever going to happen. He simply replied with: “No, it’s not, it’s not. Carbon tax is not going to happen”.

The oil major did immediately react and state that the comments made in no way represent the company’s position on the matters in question.

ExxonMobil told The Hill that the decision by the Climate Leadership Council’s “decision is disappointing and counterproductive” but that it will “[…]in no way deter our efforts to advance carbon pricing that we believe is a critical policy requirement to tackle climate change.

It’s more important than ever for organizations to work together to advance meaningful policy solutions to address shared challenges and society’s net-zero ambitions”, ExxonMobil said.

This announcement also comes amid reports by the Wall Street Journal that the nation’s largest oil producer was considering announcing a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

This considerable shift in policy is reportedly a result of pressure from three members of its board of directors who represent the Blackrock-backed activist firm Engine No. 1.

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The World Resources Institute, also a founding member of the Council, fully backed the decision to suspend ExxonMobil.

Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said: “WRI became a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council because we believe that putting a price on carbon is a key component of a fair, effective, and economically efficient policy response to the climate crisis. 

We welcome the Council’s separation from ExxonMobil. We urge all companies – in CLC and elsewhere – to re-examine their lobbying, political spending, and participation in trade associations to ensure that their actions are fully aligned with their public statements on climate change.

We call on all companies in the Council to support a price on carbon in the forthcoming reconciliation package and any future legislation that advances carbon pricing. We recognize that reconciliation is not the preferred approach, but given the mounting urgency of the climate crisis, there is no time to waste”.