Hydrogen’s role in decarbonising our society has become a particularly popular topic with the fossil fuel industry, who see it as a way to continue their core business – extracting and selling climate-wrecking fossil fuels. This new-found popularity has created a veritable ‘hydrogen hype’. It is therefore welcome to see the Financial Times hosting its online “Hydrogen Summit”, including the debate, “Is Hydrogen Overhyped?” Less welcome, however, is the fossil fuel sponsorship of the summit. German-Finnish utility Uniper, one of the first sponsors announced, is currently suing the Dutch government for trying to phase out coal.
For decades the fossil fuel industry has used its immense resources and influence to delay, sabotage and weaken effective climate policies, just like the tobacco industry did to public health policies before it. And like the tobacco industry, the fossil fuel industry uses the sponsorship of public events to greenwash its destructive business model and gain access to decision makers, such as the UK Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth and the EU Commissioner for Energy, who will be giving keynote addresses.
That is why we decided to decline the invitation to speak at the Hydrogen Summit. We desperately need more public debate on how we address the climate emergency, and the Financial Times has an essential role to play, but not when that debate is sponsored by the same industry causing the emergency. As members of the Fossil Free Politics campaign, we could not countenance legitimising an industry whose investments and lobbying efforts have continually failed to come anywhere close to alignment with the Paris Agreement and keeping temperature rise below 1.5oc. We do not think decision makers should do so either.
Today we look back on tobacco industry influence over health policy with disgust, but the same will soon be true of fossil fuel industry influence over climate policy.
Signed: Dominic Eagleton, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness and Pascoe Sabido, Researcher and Campaigner, Corporate Europe Observatory, on behalf of Food & Water Action Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe and the Fossil Free Politics campaign