OIL and gas giant BP has been accused of “greenwashing” after insisting it can be part of the solution to the challenge posed by climate change.

Environmental law specialist ClientEarth said it had filed a high-level complaint against BP, which has significant operations in the North Sea.

BP boss claims oil giant is part of solution to climate change challenge

The filing claims BP is misleading consumers about its focus on low carbon energy and solutions to climate change in what ClientEarth described as the group's "biggest marketing blitz in a decade". 

BP launched a global advertising campaign earlier this year as the company tried to reinforce its claim that it is responding positively to the climate change challenge.

On the group’s website BP says its adverts show the firm’s commitment to delivering the energy the world needs, while advancing a low carbon future under the theme of “possibilities everywhere”.

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But ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac said: “BP is spending millions on an advertising campaign to give the impression that it’s racing to renewables, that its gas is cleaner, and that it is part of the climate solution.

“This is a smokescreen ... more than 96 per cent of the company’s annual capital expenditure is on oil and gas.”

ClientEarth has claimed BP’s adverts breach international guidelines for multinationals on environmental communications and advertising. It wants BP to withdraw all advertising until it complies with them.

The organisation said it had also launched a campaign calling for all fossil fuel advertising to be banned unless it comes with tobacco-style health warning about the dangers to people and planet.

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It noted that The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had found that emissions from fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming. 

BP strongly rejected the suggestion its advertising is misleading. A spokesperson noted BP had clearly said the world is on an unsustainable path and must do more to reduce emissions. It supports a rapid transition of the world’s energy system and is committed to advancing a low-carbon future.

She said: “One of the purposes of this advertising campaign is to let people know about some of the possibilities we see to do that, for example in wind, solar and electric vehicle charging ... natural gas and advanced fuels.”

The head of BP's business in the UK and Europe Peter Mather recently told The Herald the firm could play a vital role in helping meet growing global demand for energy and in reducing carbon emissions in the process.

He said the company is focused on reducing the carbon emissions generated by its operations, improving the products it sells and on helping to maximise the potential of renewable energy technologies.

He noted the North Sea is an important source of gas, which generated half the emissions of coal when combusted.

ClientEarth said it had submitted a complaint to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) guidelines on multinational enterprises.