Last week world leaders gathered in New York for the UN Climate Ambition Summit where countries shared concrete action they’ve taken to phase out fossil fuels. There, the conversation was grounded in science, with leaders such as California’s Governor Newsom saying “The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It’s not complicated; it’s the burning of oil, gas, and coal, and we need to call that out. For decades the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us for fools.”
Meanwhile, those same oil industry executives were scheming at the 24th World Petroleum Congress in Calgary. This conference brings together the big-wigs in oil and gas from around the world, and some of Canada’s top Climate Villains were in attendance.
The theme this year was “Energy Transition”, but instead of discussing the phasing out of oil and gas, they were plotting ways to keep us dependent on fossil fuels for longer, no matter the costs.
And one of those villains was greenwashing expert and September’s Climate Villain of the Month, Susannah Pierce.
Pierce: A Ruthless Greenwasher
Susannah Pierce is Shell Canada’s president and was a panelist at the Congress. Just days before the conference she was featured in an article where she attempted to shift blame away from the fossil fuel industry by saying that oil companies can only decarbonize as fast as the rest of the economy – a comment that completely ignores the fact that the oil and gas industry is Canada’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Pierce is an expert level greenwasher, and it’s a tactic she uses to distract from her plans to continue expanding oil and gas and extract every ounce of revenue for Shell. But all Climate Villains have a kryptonite and Pierce can be stopped by climate heroes that fight for a cap on industry emissions. Is that you?
Take action by telling the government to hold the oil and gas sector accountable for its pollution by urgently implementing a cap on emissions.
Pierce’s career has been dedicated to extracting and exporting fossil fuels, as her CV below shows. As always, the format is satirical but the information is real.
- Shell Canada Products Ltd.: 2021 – present
- LNG Canada Development Inc. (a joint venture of Shell, Petronas, Mitsubishi, PetroChina and Kogas): 2013 – 2021
- Shell Canada Ltd.: 2010 – 2013
- Shell Oil Company Inc.: 2009 – 2010
- TC Energy Corporation: 2002 – 2008
Villain Career Profile
Climate Villain Susannah Pierce works hard to raise global temperatures on behalf of the oil and gas industry, with two decades of experience marketing, developing, and lobbying the government for further expansion of fossil fuels. Pierce proudly boasts about “driving government policy at federal and state levels” for the benefit of oil and gas companies.
As head of Shell Canada, Pierce is a highly skilled multi-tasker – publicly promoting her and the company’s support for decarbonization, while also denouncing the policies that would get us to net-zero.
The global group of Shell companies is also internationally famous for greenwashing. Last year a US congressional investigation into climate disinformation revealed a 2020 internal PR guidance presentation that stated, despite the company’s net-zero by 2050 pledge, “Shell has no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years” and directs staff “Please do not give the impression that Shell is willing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that do not make business sense.” And this year Shell abandoned it’s much lauded plans to cut global oil production, in a walk-back of climate action in favour of trying to boost short-term shareholder profits.
Susannah Pierce also has a track record of aggressively promoting the liquified natural gas (LNG) industry. She has been part of the massive push to rebrand fossil gas as “natural gas” despite it primarily being made up of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Her work leading LNG Canada, a deceptively named conglomerate of Shell, Petronas, Mitsubishi, PetroChina and Kogas, is responsible for the $40 billion LNG export terminal connected to the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline through BC.
The pipeline is being constructed through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory despite resistance from the Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters. In spite of widespread horror and pushback, LNG Canada’s persistence has resulted in multiple militarized RCMP raids of the nation’s Gidimt’en camp and Unist’ot’en healing village. Coastal GasLink has also impressively racked up over 50 warnings from the province of BC about environmental violations and just last week was fined more than $340,000 for non-compliance.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline is designed to carry fracked gas. Fracked gas is just the same old polluting fossil fuel, but Pierce has been successful at cleverly spinning it as part of the green energy transition, under the banner of LNG. The emissions don’t lie: Shell’s flagship LNG project will add 14 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution to the atmosphere every year, which is the equivalent of adding over 3 million gas-powered cars.
Steadfast Professional Promoter of False Solutions
- Promotes Shell’s Quest project in Alberta as a story of climate action, when in reality it’s a fossil hydrogen plant with a carbon capture system, and has the same carbon footprint as 1.2 million gas cars.
- $654 million of the $1 billion costs of Shell’s Quest facility stemmed from Canadian government subsidies.
Expert at Expanding Fossil Fuel Infrastructure (especially on unceded Indigenous territory)
- As Director at LNG Canada, Pierce developed a $40 billion project that will export fracked gas from Northern BC through unceded Indigenous territory via the Coastal GasLink pipeline
Pervasive Influence Beyond the Oil Boardroom
- Pierce’s influence isn’t limited to her day job. She has been very active on a range of boards of business councils, non-profits, and think tanks, where she’s been able to greenwash her reputation, gain social license for her company, and promote the false idea that oil and gas needs to be an important part of our economy and society.
- She was a board member of the pro-oil Fraser Institute from 2017-2020. During her tenure on the board it published numerous reports and op-eds that aimed to cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change.
- Executive Committee of the Business Council of BC
- Executive Committee of the Business Council of Canada
- Asia Business Leaders Advisory Council
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce Western Executive Council
- The Canadian Global Affairs Institute Advisory Council
- The Fraser Institute: 2017 – 2020
- Pentanova Energy Corp: 2017 – 2018
- Gemini Corp: 2013 – 2017
- Business Council of Alberta – Define the Decade
- Vancouver General Hospital Foundation
The Climate Villains campaign highlights the leaders of the fossil fuel industry that play key roles in expanding and financing climate-wrecking fossil fuels, blocking climate action, and spreading disinformation. These villains are more concerned about their profits and wealth than the future of the planet, and that’s why we’re profiling the ‘resume’ of each climate villain.
We know that government intervention is critical for tackling the climate crisis with decisive urgency and at the scale necessary, so our approach is to put pressure on governments to pass more ambitious climate policies.
While we aim to advance policy that works in the public interest, oil and gas executives, and their powerful allies, are using their political power to block climate action in order to personally profit from more oil and gas production. This is nothing new: these companies have been actively blocking climate policy for decades. Their earlier tactics involved straight-up climate denial, and now they have pivoted to delaying, greenwashing and pushing dangerous distractions. And many people, including those in the government, are falling for it.
That’s why each month we’ll highlight one of the villains, so you can learn more about the tactics they use to delay climate action and what you can do to fight back for real climate solutions.