It is not the first time that ClientEarth has gone up against the fossil fuel industry. In 2019 the lawyers submitted a complaint about a clean energy advertising campaign from oil company BP, which they said would mislead the public. The oil firm withdrew the campaign.

On the back of these new findings, ClientEarth called for a ban on fossil fuel advertising, similar to bans that were imposed on tobacco companies in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“Ideally all fossil fuel advertising should be banned unless it comes with a tobacco-style health warning about the risks of climate change, including the dangers of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels,” White said. “The public should not be misled, and fossil fuel companies must be accountable for the damage they do.”

The Greenwash Files follow a report last year from financial think tank Carbon Tracker that found oil companies had set climate ambitions that would “leave them free to increase production or ignore the full impact of burning their future oil and gas.”

Carbon Tracker oil and gas analyst Mike Coffin emphasized that “climate targets need to recognise the absolute limits of a global carbon budget and incorporate interim emissions reductions. Policies which fall short will fail to satisfy both environmental and financial concerns from investors, and risk being perceived as greenwashing.”

In spite of growing investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies worldwide, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Earlier this month the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that atmospheric carbon dioxide had passed 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history. Around the same time, scientists revealed that 2020 had seen a record rise in emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than CO2 in its contribution to global warming.

Update 04/19/2021 GMT1301: This post has been updated to include a response from Shell.