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Experts sound alarm over new 'climate tech' startup company: 'It's a Trojan horse of legitimacy'

"You're under cover of the idea that the climate movement is an all-hands-on-deck situation."

"You're under cover of the idea that the climate movement is an all-hands-on-deck situation."

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An inspiringly named startup that hints at the promise of a cleaner, healthier future may be a misdirect by the major company that owns it. 

What's happening? 

As detailed by The Guardian, oil and gas giant Shell, which made $28 billion in profits from dirty energy in 2023, rebranded its Studio X project as "Onward" in February

Despite the hopeful name and bios of company leaders who tout their excitement for a "clean energy future," the venture appears to be anything but focused on transitioning toward renewables. 

In fact, as noted by the outlet, Onward's short-term job board, which keeps the hiring companies anonymous, had "dozens of jobs" in the oil and gas realm as of February.

Why is this concerning?

In October, a synthesis report released by the United Nations recommended that the exploration of dirty energy fuels should end by 2030 to limit rising temperatures linked to extreme weather events, the spread of disease, and food supply issues, among other things. 

However, major oil and gas companies don't appear to be on the same page, as reported by The Guardian, which pointed out that Shell CEO Wael Sawan has seemingly abandoned previous company pledges to reduce planet-warming pollution created by the burning of these fuels and instead kept production at the same level. 

An Onward representative declined to comment after The Guardian reached out, passing along a press kit, but the outlet noted that CEO Jeff Allyn previously told Axios that "the more people we have engaged with the community, the quicker we can create new and innovative solutions to the challenges we face."

That is part of the issue, according to Rutgers University professor of journalism and media Melissa Aronczyk.

"It's a Trojan horse of legitimacy," Aronczyk told The Guardian in regard to oil and gas companies' being invited as partners in climate discussions. "You're under cover of the idea that the climate movement is an all-hands-on-deck situation, but what you're really doing is bringing in players who have very different ideas of what it means to 'solve' the climate crisis." 

What can be done about this?

There are many companies that are making it easier for consumers to support eco-friendly initiatives as well as reduce toxic plastic and material waste, both of which contribute to an overheating planet. 

Some programs even put money back in your wallet. GotSneakers, for example, will upcycle your shoes for free and go as far as to write you a check if the items are in good condition. 

While the burning of dirty energy is the main culprit causing the dangerous rise of global temperatures, scientists have been working on alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, to complement the adoption of other types of clean energy, such as wind and solar

Knowing how to spot greenwashing can help you hold corporations accountable, as it allows you to make informed decisions about which brands you want to support. 

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