It would have been the least they could do. But they still couldn’t do it.

Given the existential stakes of the climate crisis and the life-threatening impacts already harming communities everywhere, it would seem that simply asking someone NOT to interfere with climate solutions wouldn’t be asking too much.

Well, it was for the Big Oil executives who testified before a U.S. Congressional Oversight Committee in Washington, DC on 28 October.

Leaders of ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Shell Oil, American Petroleum Institute, and the US Chamber of Commerce (the latter two being prominent lobbying groups) wouldn’t pledge to stop spending money blatantly opposing efforts to reduce emissions and address climate change. 

Instead, the #SlipperySix — as these executives have been dubbed on social media for their disingenuous tactics — appeared to remain committed to greenwashing their climate-wrecking industry, spreading disinformation, and continuing to lobby against the meaningful climate action we need. Even more disturbing, the executives largely pretended either to be unaware of or blameless for all the climate science denial and disinformation that their companies have been responsible for up until now. 

Juxtaposed against the evasive behaviors of the CEOs during this hearing was the candid account previously given by a senior lobbyist for Exxon of how the oil giant was working to drastically reduce the scope of climate legislation in the US. The video obtained by Unearthed, Greenpeace UK’s investigative journalism platform, was released in June and was among the catalysts for these executives being summoned to testify.  

In perhaps one of the most important admissions of the six-hour hearing, Exxon’s Darren Woods affirmed the reporting of Unearthed by admitting that he did contact members of the US congress relating to a bill that could — and should — include major climate provisions.   

GIven the lack of cooperation from the executives, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, announced at the end of the hearing that she will issue subpoenas to the oil companies and lobbying groups represented for internal documents related to spending to mislead the public on global warming.

While it may come as no surprise that Big Oil is not the solution to the problem that it created, there are clear actions we can take to end the fossil fuel era: 

Greenpeace USA is calling on Senators to end fossil fuel subsidies and to support the climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act. 

More than 75,000 people have already signed onto a petition calling for a European Union-wide ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorships.  

Meanwhile, world leaders will be gathered for COP26 in Glasgow from 31 October through 12 November with the opportunity — and responsibility — to signal a clear end to the fossil fuel era. In a promising sign that false solutions and greenwashing won’t derail these important talks, the presence of oil companies such as BP and Shell will be limited at COP26 by the UK’s requirement for detailed emissions-reduction plans. 

The challenges we face are huge. But people power can accomplish the urgent actions we need!