Open letter: Global action required now to tackle the threat of climate misinformation and disinformation

Photo by Markus Spiske

The following is an open letter to the COP26 Presidency & UNFCCC, and the CEOs of Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and Reddit. This letter is led by The Conscious Advertising Network and was developed in partnership with climate and disinformation experts, including the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. If you would like to sign it, you can do so here.

Climate change has reached a crisis point. COP26 is a key moment in accelerating our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. This cannot be threatened by misinformation.

The individuals, companies, agencies and civil society signatures to this letter demand swift and robust global action from COP decision makers and tech platforms, to mitigate these threats.

The problem we are trying to solve is that many of the big tech platforms currently have no Climate Misinformation policies. In August 2021, a study by Newsguard and Comscore found that $2.6 billion was being spent by big brands advertising on misinformation sites. Clearly, there is a significant risk that COP26 could be seriously undermined by dis/misinformation or even that violence may be inspired by that disinformation. This must change.

We are seeing really encouraging signs. In October 2021, Google, in partnership with the Conscious Advertising Network, announced a new monetisation policy for Google advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators that will “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” This action sends a strong signal to all big tech companies that they must do more to stop climate misinformation.

The threat to COP26 and climate action is not abstract, we have seen misinformation derail conferences before. In 2018, a coordinated online campaign by right-wing populists, far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists pressured countries to drop support for the U.N. Global Compact on Migration. 12 countries abstained, while the United States, Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary all voted against the international agreement. A year later, the same disinformation was found to have played a part in radicalising the Christchurch terrorist, with “Here’s your migration compact!” etched into the barrel of his gun.

Finally, we need a universal definition of climate misinformation to allow for international co-operation in tackling it. It is currently not recognised in the Paris Climate Agreement and was not included in the IPCC’s latest AR6 report. Without a clear definition and a recognition of the multi billion dollar industry that supports it, how can we confront it?

To the COP26 Presidency & UNFCCC:

The COP26 Presidency outlined a need for ‘a new work programme for climate empowerment, education, training and public awareness, participation and access to information’ in the COP26 Negotiated Outcome. We advocate for the ‘action against climate dis/misinformation based on the following definition’ to be included:

Climate disinformation and misinformation refers to deceptive or misleading content that:

  • Undermines the existence or impacts of climate change, the unequivocal human influence on climate change, and the need for corresponding urgent action according to the IPCC scientific consensus and in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement;
  • Misrepresents scientific data, including by omission or cherry-picking, in order to erode trust in climate science, climate-focused institutions, experts, and solutions; or
  • Falsely publicises efforts as supportive of climate goals that in fact contribute to climate warming or contravene the scientific consensus on mitigation or adaptation.

To the CEOs of Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and Reddit:

Implement climate misinformation and disinformation policies and enforcement that extend to content, algorithms and advertising, similar to the robust COVID 19 policies that have been published over the last 18 months (these policies should also be based on the definition above):

  1. Accept the official definition of climate disinformation and misinformation, as defined, at COP26.
  2. Produce and publicise a 100%-transparent company plan to eliminate the spread of climate disinformation on your platform. This plan should consider:
    Community standards that do not permit deceptive statements on climate science or policy.
    A 100%-transparent fact-checking process that includes how climate disinformation is categorised and handled by independent fact-checkers and how it is protected from politicisation by company staff.
    Add an interstitial to disrupt potential climate misinformation, and ensure human checking on all posts flagged in this way.
  3. Advertise your zero tolerance approach directly to users.
  4. Do not publish adverts if they contain climate misinformation or disinformation based on the definition.
  5. Share your internal research on how climate misinformation spreads on your platform with researchers and journalists so we can work together to tackle this global, multi-faceted issue.

COP26 is a perfect moment to start momentum for decision-makers to acknowledge the climate misinformation threat and, through global cooperation, to step up against it.

[To sign this letter, please fill out the form provided in this link]

Signed,

Organisations

SSE plc

Sky

Virgin Media O2

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth U.S.

WWF International

The Climate Reality Project

British Gas

Ben & Jerry’s

Green Britain Group — Ecotricity & Forest Green Rovers FC

Havas Media

Avaaz

Accenture Interactive

Alliance for Science

Global Witness

VCCP

Conscious Advertising Network

Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)

Centre for Countering Digital Hate

National Union of Students

InfluenceMap

Power Shift Africa

HOPE not hate

Coordinating Committee of the Climate Observatory, Brazil

Toast Ale

World Land Trust

Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA)

Eco-bot.net

Instituto Climainfo

Stop Funding Heat

AAR

38 Degrees

Brand Advance

JW Collective

ICE

Climate Disinformation Coalition

Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK)

Forum for the Future

Carnegie UK

Good-Loop

Community Energy England

Marshall Street Editors

Global Energy Monitor

LD Communications

TGN ltd

Too Many Dreams

Changing Markets Foundation

Fair Vote UK

Elevenfiftyfive Ltd

On the One

Anything is Possible

Empower Agency

Entropy

Wilderness Agency

Shiny Awards

Brandmint

Roq.ad

Hopscotch Consulting

Portas Agency Ltd

Assembly

Mobsta

Sarah Casterline Design, LLC

Responsible 100

CREOpoint, Inc.

Rally

Materials in Mind

DOT DOT DOT Group Ltd. / STRYKK (Elegantly Spirited)

KEAM GEORGE AGENCY

If Not Now Digital Ltd

Assembly

UKWIN

If Not Now

Hattusia and the Echo Chamber Club

Friends Provident Foundation

MCH London

Underdog Sports Marketing

The Lift

MCH London

YRS Truly

Media Bounty

Campaign Bootcamp

ClimateHero

Barn Owl Trust

Purpose Climate Lab

Freeda Media

Climate Cymru

EcoDewi

CND Cymru

Grwp Resilience CBC

Sustainable Wales

TYF Adventure

Energy Local CIC

Pro Adventure Ltd

Green Squirrel CIC

Afallen

Community Energy Wales

Frog Bikes

VsI “Ziedine ekonomika”

Mid Wales Arts

Sciaena

Carymor

Platypus Digital

Eglwys yng Nghymru / Church in Wales

Brand Advance

Deche Mobility

Swansea Environmental

EKCS Inc

Transform Scotland

Wild Justice

Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation

The Green web Foundation

Future Planet

Eating Better

mySociety

Twiglets Forest School

Asociat

Wholegrain Digital

Individuals

Laurence Tubiana — CEO European Climate Foundation

May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy, COP20 President, Former Minister of Environment for Peru

Bill Hare, CEO, Climate Analytics

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Crossbench Peer, House of Lords

Mark Lynas, climate author and pro-science advocate

Sir Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist and founder director of Forum for the Future

Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa

Dr. Sarah Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science

Paulo Roberto Jubilut, Biologist

Suzie Rook, Head of Brand and Design, SSE plc

Claire Carrington, Director of Business Services, SSE plc

Fiona Ball, Group Director, Bigger Picture, Sky

Jerry Daykin, Senior Media Director, GSK Consumer Healthcare

Simon Groves, Director of Brand and Marketing, Virgin Media O2

Andrew Middleton, Commercial Director, British Gas

Paul Polman, Co-founder & Chair, IMAGINE

Dr Dale Vince OBE, Green Britain Group — Ecotricity & Forest Green Rovers FC

Michael Khoo, Climate disinformation co-chair , Friends of the Earth U.S.

Robert Del Naja, Artist and Musician

Greg James, Global CSO, Havas Media

Ben Downing, Global Managing Director, Ethical Media & Strategic Partnerships, Havas Media

Nick Waters, Group CEO, Ebiquity Plc

The Right Reverend Dr. Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

Dr Jonathan Barnard, CEO, World Land Trust

Laura Lesser, Culture & Innovation, Virgin Media O2

Amir Malik, MD, Accenture Interactive

Stephanie Brimacombe, CEO Europe and Global Chief Marketing Officer, VCCP Managing Director, Chime, VCCP

Harriet Kingaby, Co-Founder, Conscious

Advertising Network

Jake Dubbins, Co-Founder, Conscious Advertising Network

Tina Fegent, Director, Tina Fegent Ltd / Co-Chair of the GSD Board, CAN

Dino Myers-Lamptey, Founder, The Barber Shop / Co-Chair of the GSD Board, CAN

Kwai Chi, Principal Social Media Manager, Intuit

Jane White, Founder, JW Collective

Karen Carter, Director Enterprise Marketing, Europe, Cvent

Christopher Kenna, CEO Brand Advance Group

Victoria Fox, CEO, AAR

Leila Deen, ED of Purpose Climate Lab

Julia Masters, Campaign Manager, Climate Disinformation Coalition

Anita Howard, Strategy Director, ICE

John Mayes, Company Director / Editor, Marshall Street Editors

Neil Chivers, Owner/Director, LD Communications

Tom Newton, Founder, strategist, TGN ltd

Stephen Jenkins, Founder & MD, Too Many Dreams

Goerge Harding-Rolls, Campaigns Adviser, Changing Markets Foundation

Lena Roland, WARC

Clare Martynski, Communication and Engagement Officer, University of Leeds

Sarah Tulej, Sustainability consultant

Jacqueline Culleton, Consultant

Anna Biswas, Director, Forum for the Future India

Kyle Taylor, Director, Fair Vote UK

Ben Ross, Head of Aim4Zero, Real Estate. Verco

Ian Cartwright, Director, Elevenfiftyfive Ltd

Joanie Pennel, Comms and Marketing Manager

Sam Fenton-Elstone, CEO, Anything is Possible

Ben Matthews, Co-Founder and CEO, Empower Agency

Alex Tait, Founder, Entropy

Steven Mijovski, Director

Tom Jarvis, CEO & Founder, Wilderness Agency

Tess Alps, Council member, ASA

Caroline Bottomley, Managing Director, Shiny Awards

Angie Gola-Ebue, Founder, Intermediary

Simon Watson, Head of Digital, Republic of Media

Bethany Patton, Creative Director, Brandmint

Samuel Wheeler-Phillips, Head of Marketing

Alasdair Cross, VP Sales EMEA, Roq.ad

Mark Nicholson, Finance Director, Portas Agency Ltd

Kelly Conlon, Senior Strategy Manager, Assembly

Matt Longley, Managing Director, Mobsta

Ben Hardman, Founder, Tiny Eco Home Life

Sarah Casterline, Owner and Lead Creative, Sarah Casterline Design, LLC

Michael Solomon, Director, Responsible 100

Carol Edwards, Community Park Ranger

Neil Gunn, Head of Digital Transformation

Anna Rice, Responsible tourism manager

Lesley Duncan, Strategy Director, Forwardpmx

Paul de Gregorio, Founder, Rally

Sivah Akash, Associate

Paul Sampson, CEO, Lickd Ltd

Jack Horner, Founder, DOT DOT DOT Group Ltd. / STRYKK (Elegantly Spirited)

James Kirkham, Chief business officer, Defected Records

RICHARD DAWES, Founder, DawBell

Daniel Keam-George, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, KEAM GEORGE AGENCY

Chris Bettles, Director, If Not Now Digital Ltd

Mel Leslie, Consultant

Jeremy Paterson, MD, If media

Natalie Morris, Global Media & Marketing Consultant, Flock Associates

Will Pyne, Founder, Human Required

James Green, Senior Strategy Director, Assembly

Stan Mcleod, Product

Hanna Henshall, Director and Co-Founder, If Not Now

Raphael Kling David, climate activist- founder ECONFTS

Alex Stobart

Josey Bright, Associate Solicitor

Alice Thwaite, Founder, Hattusia and the Echo Chamber Club

Michael Hanbury-Williams, Group Director, Data Solutions & Sustainability

Donald MacKenzie, Professor of Sociology, University of Edinburgh

Mark Howarth, Managing Director, MCH London

Gina Walker, Director of Client Services, MCH London

Justin Cooke, Venture Partner, Northzone

Rosey Ellum, Digital Acquisition Manager

Richard Wright, Founder, Stand Up Marketing

Emilie Tornøe, Account executive, Mch London

Hamish Blair, Marketing Officer, Gwent Wildlife Trust

Ged Colleypriest, Founder, Underdog Sports Marketing

Louise Brown, Supporter Relations Supervisor, Friends of the Earth

Miranda Romero, Head of Sustainability, The Lift

Sarah Greenfield Clark, Director, Climate 2025

Liam Garcia Lillis, Director, The Movements Trust

Amanda Nikolic, Graphic/Digital Designer, MCH London

MJ Widomska, Founder and creative director, YRS Truly

Emma Tozer, Co-founder, Media Bounty

Sarah Miguel, Head of Income Generation, Campaign Bootcamp

Amy Williams, CEO, Good-Loop

Nillie Munir, Sponsorship, Virgin Media O2

Jason Hocking, Managing Director, CC Lab

Şehnaz Kiymaz Bahçeci, Feminist Activist

Russell Macdonald, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Vanessa Lewis, Admin assistant, Barn Owl Trust

Mike Barry, Mike Barry Eco Ltd

Emma Bridge, Chief Executive, Community Energy England,

Polly Hibbert, Head of Product, Freeda Media

Dan Keenan, Director, Digital Delivery, Merkle

Sam Ward, Campaign manager, Climate Cymru

Professor Emeritus Robin Attfield, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cardiff University, Cardiff and District United Nations Association

Jeremy Wadia, Co-founder, EcoDewi

Margaret Minhinnick, Director, Sustainable Wales

Andy Middleton, Chief Exploration Officer, TYF Adventure

Mary Gillie, Director, Energy Local CIC

Nick Lowles, CEO, HOPE not hate

Peter Carol, Owner Director, Pro Adventure Ltd

Ffion Rees, Director, Falcon Boats

Hannah Garcia, Director, Green Squirrel CIC

Rebecca Clark, Director, Green Squirrel CIC

Stuart Elliott, Church in Wales Vicar and Member of C.H.A.S.E.

Domantas Tracevicius, Director, VsI “Ziedine ekonomika”

John Mansfield, Managing Director, Pembrokeshire Seaweeds Ltd

Gonçalo Carvalho, Executive Coordinator, Sciaena

Brandi Guerkink, Mozilla

Steve Hynd, Policy Manager, City to Sea

Delphine Levi Alvares, European Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic

Owen Haines, Volunteer director, Carymor

György Szabó, Zero Waste Program Manager

Will Cardy, Director of Digital Marketing, Platypus Digital

Stuart Elliott, Vicar and member of C.H.A.S.E.

Melanie Lawson Wall, Director of People and Wellbeing, Brand Advance

Suzanne Iuppa, Director & Co-Founder, Deche Mobility

Robert Berkeley, CEO, EKCS Inc

Jane Lawton, Chief Development and Communications Officer, Forum for the Future

Lucinda Thurmer, Marketing Manager

Chris Adams, Co-director, The Green web Foundation

Carl Pratt, Founder & Creative Director, Future Planet

Louise Workman-Dent, Group curriculum director, New City College

Patrick S McCool, Passivhaus Developer, Proven Cool Build, Lda

Tom Ollerton, Founder, Automated Creative

Louisa Ziane, Chief Operating Officer, Toast Ale

Chloe Wells, Director, Twiglets Forest School

Michael Brown, CEO/Founder, Asociat

Délcio Rodrigues, CEO, Instituto Climainfo

Flavia Bellaguarda, FOUNDER, LACLIMA

Dilip Shukla, Managing Director, Brand Advance

Hugh Knowles, Co-Executive Director, Friends of the Earth — England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Vineeta Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital