Fossil Free Revolution visual - Picture of human face superposed on picture of offshore oil platform rig in ocean.

Fossil fuel companies have lied for decades about the climate crisis, and humanity is paying the price. But lies and deception are only part of the story. The fossil fuel industry has been deeply involved in countless historic and ongoing unlawful activities, from facing credible accusations to receiving actual criminal convictions. It’s a shocking reality that we can’t afford to ignore any longer. 

Now, Greenpeace Netherlands has exposed the truth. They’ve compiled a damning inventory that lays bare the criminality of the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to face the hard truth about the fossil fuel industry and demand that they end their crimes and pay for the harm they have caused.

So, what is the Fossil Fuel Crime File and why have Greenpeace Netherlands published it? 

“The Fossil Fuel Crime File: Proven Crimes and Credible Allegations” is a partial list of local and global criminal, civil and administrative offences, proven or credibly alleged to have been committed by these corporate giants. From environmental destruction, bribery, corruption and human rights violations to misleading the public with greenwashing adverts, this inventory reveals a glimpse of the unlawful activity of which the fossil fuel industry stands accused.

Looking at each case on its own, it’s not easy to see the bigger picture. But, examine the industry as a whole, and a pattern of crimes and credible allegations of illegal behaviour emerges, revealing a pattern of illegal behaviour over decades. This is the first compilation of its kind and provides a strong basis for the claim that the fossil fuel industry is criminal. 

It is vital that this corporate cycle of fossil-fuelled violence, exploitation and criminal activities comes to an end.

How many different categories of crimes are in the report?

The report evidences that unlawful activity is baked into the DNA of the fossil fuel industry. It identifies 17 different categories of crimes or administrative offences, including misleading advertising, bribery, corruption, environmental degradation, human rights violations, greenwashing, and even complicity in war crimes, for which fossil fuel companies have been convicted or credibly accused. 

These categories are supported by 26 examples of criminal conduct, which are either credibly alleged or formally established. Greenpeace Netherlands have compiled a list of publicly-known criminal, civil and administrative offences committed by or alleged against fossil fuel companies based in Europe from 1989 to the present day. It lists 10 fossil fuel companies that have committed or have been credibly accused of breaking the law, many of them several times over. The findings show: 

  • The most recurrent crime was corruption, of which 6 cases have been included in this Fossil Fuel Crime File.
  • A new generation of legal offences involving greenwashing and misleading advertising has emerged in recent years. 

Which companies have committed or been credibly accused of criminal activity?

The report focuses on powerful Europe-based fossil fuel majors: Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni, Glencore, Repsol, OMV Petrom, RWE, Lundin Energy / Aker BP, Fortum, and Equinor / Statoil. Together, these companies have a long trail of legal claims behind them spanning decades; 26 examples of criminal conduct, which are either credibly alleged or formally established, are listed in the Fossil Fuel Crime File. 

Although Greenpeace Netherlands have focused on a select number of companies, this isn’t a case of a few badly-behaved companies; the research provides a strong foundation to the claim that criminality is integral to the DNA of this industry.

The fossil fuel industry apparently thinks it is above the law, and as long as its mighty power and influence remain unbroken, it must be expected that more crimes will be committed that further endanger people and destroy the natural environment.  

Who is affected by the crimes of the fossil fuel industry?

Typhoon survivors in the Philippines protest for loss and damage funds ahead of COP27. “To climate polluters: pay up for loss and damage”.
© Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace

While many of us only hear about fossil fuel companies’ criminal actions in the news, for many others, particularly those living in the Global South, the harsh realities of the industry are an all-too-familiar experience. The most devastating impacts of fossil fuel exploitation can be observed in countries of the Global South – for example, this Crime File includes crimes in Nigeria, Cameroon and Sudan. The industry feeds on the exploitation of people, natural resources and entire communities in these countries and it is often those people who suffer the most who are already marginalised in societies

Countless brave survivors have taken a stand against the fossil fuel industry and its powerful team of highly paid lawyers. While some have been successful, unfortunately, many crimes never make it to court, and justice is not always served.

Why we must hold the fossil fuel industry accountable

Floods in Migori and Homa Bay Counties in Kenya in May 2020 left thousands displaced, with hundreds of lives lost, and crops and livestock destroyed.
© Bernard Ojwang / Greenpeace

We can’t ignore the role the fossil fuel industry plays in exacerbating the climate crisis. One third of global carbon emissions can be attributed to only 20 companies and emissions from fossil fuels are the number one driver of global warming. If we want to have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we must take immediate action and put a stop to their climate wrecking activities including halting all new fossil fuel projects and cutting production of oil, gas, and coal immediately.

The climate crisis is wreaking havoc on our world, and we know the devastating impacts are hitting developing countries and communities hardest. Just last year, Pakistan was hit by catastrophic flooding that took countless lives and left millions homeless. And over the past two decades the Philippines have been increasingly ravaged by unseasonable typhoons which have left thousands dead. Slower-moving changes are also destroying lives and livelihoods. With weather patterns shifting, communities struggle to grow crops without reliable rain, and rising sea levels are forcing people to abandon their homes. 

Besides driving the climate crisis, fossil fuel extraction is causing severe environmental pollution and destruction, negative health impacts for people and animals and other disruptions for local communities. Fossil fuel companies need to be held accountable and pay for these damages.

What needs to happen now and what can you do to help?

Greenpeace Activists Approach Shell Oil Platform. © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists approach Shell oil platform in Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands
© Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace
Demonstration to Protect Lützerath.
End Fossil Crimes

Join the call for climate justice. Add your name to demand that fossil fuel companies stop their climate-wrecking activities.

Take action

Greenpeace is standing up to the criminal fossil fuel industry and holding them to account for the harm they are causing to people and our planet. But, we’ll need people power to pressure them at every turn. 

People everywhere are rising up in resistance against the fossil fuel industry because they are driving us deeper into the climate crisis, causing death, destruction and displacement around the world.

For a fair, green and peaceful world, we need climate justice. Our message to the fossil fuel criminals is clear: End the crimes, we want justice!

Together, we will end fossil crimes against humanity and the climate.

Lisa Göldner is Greenpeace’s Lead Campaigner for the Fossil Free Revolution campaign based in Berlin, Germany.