Be wary of greenwashing from the fossil fuel sector


A few weeks ago, the same advertisement kept showing up on Instagram. The posts, featuring photos of smiling youth wearing red and white t-shirts, were promoted by an account with the username @studentsforcanada.  

The account’s page, now @ycresources, is full of mismatched posts defending the importance of Canada’s energy sector, the importance of having “balanced and informed” conversations about natural resources, and how Canada is a leader in environmental sustainability. 

Practically every post included the words “Canada” or “Canadian”—the organization relentlessly declaring how proud Canadians should be of our abundance of natural resources.

A visit to their website shows Students for Canada, now known as Youth for Canadian Resources, is linked to Canada Action, an organization with conservative pro-oil ties that seeks to garner support for one of our most environmentally damaging industries. 

Despite all of Canada Action’s impassioned defenses of Canadian energy, there’s little talk of meaningfully reducing emissions. Canada is one of the G20 countries least likely to hit its climate targets by 2030, and our emissions have in fact increased by 27 per cent since 2000.

It's bizarre to think Canada’s oil and gas industry feels so threatened by climate activists that it must prop up “grassroots” organizations like Canada Action. After all, the social and economic benefits of fossil fuels are far outweighed by the imminent threat of climate change. 

Recent networking and outreach events on Canadian university campuses meant to foster a new generation of pro-oil advocates are cause for concern. These events target the very demographic that will experience the worst of the climate crisis in the coming years. 

Make no mistake: social media campaigns like these are a desperate attempt from the fossil fuel industry to polish their reputation amidst mounting public pressure. 

As oil giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron flirt with renewables, dabble in flawed technologies like carbon capture or hydrogen fuels, and push vague messages about their commitment to clean energy, they remain entrenched in an industry actively driving us towards climate catastrophe.  

Public relations are a crucial tool for these companies. During the Coastal GasLink pipeline protests, Canada Action spent $21,000 on pro-pipeline advertisements that reached 2 million people. Big Oil peppers their reports with buzzwords like “net zero” or “transition” while rarely mentioning the industry they are financially reliant on. 

Although demand for oil is expected to decline, fossil fuel companies and their supporters are attempting to encourage demand by framing their industry as integral to Canadian identity. 

There’s no future in fossil fuels. Oil companies would have us believe they’re leaders in climate action, but their actions say otherwise. They attempt to recruit students to their cause and convince young Canadians that we need them, when a transition to clean energy is necessary and possible. 

Until the fossil fuel sector commits to meaningful action, we must remain skeptical of their intentions. 

Anne is a second-year Health Sciences student and one of The Journal’s Features Editors

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