A Free-Market Energy Blog

Watchman on ‘Greenwashing’

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 16, 2022

“Back to the greenwash misdirection…. Why not add U.S. DOE secretary Jennifer “Please get your rig count up” Granholm to the list? How about the wind and solar developers who really don’t care about the damage they cause around them? How about the whole biomass industry?”

Paul Watchman is an amiable chap I have gotten to know on social media. Patient and polite, seems open-minded and respectful of opposing views, including mine toward Net Zero.

Watchman has many titles and positions in the climate debate, including Special Legal Adviser at UNEP Principles of Sustainable Development Net Zero Insurance Underwriters Alliance. This Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow is deep in the intellectual climate vanguard. [1]

“Greenwashing Day”

In a post titled “Greenwashing Day,” Watchman cuts loose on what he sees as a lot of fake greenery in the Net Zero cause. I retort that this is what you get for trying to demonize the green greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). And trying to outlaw the economic release of methane, caused in part from the eco-crusade against pipelines and end-user demand to make venting and flaring the alternative.

Here is Watchman’s very interesting list, followed by my final comment.

1. Making public pledges to reduce carbon footprint or not to lend or invest in fossil fuels, oil and gas and either doing the exact opposite or increasing carbon footprint or lending or investing more money.

2. Exaggerating investments in renewal energy. For example, we have so little invested in renewables that it is right to say that we have invested 50 times as much in renewables or where renewables are insignificant compared with the rest of the oil and gas portfolio.

3. Pretending that CCS or CCUS or DAC work [are] scaleable at economic cost. [ed note: DAC is ‘direct air capture’]

4. Putting carbon offsetting and carbon credits in a voluntary market forward as reducing carbon emissions rather than just moving them around.

5. Not acknowledging that the voluntary carbon credits market is the Wild West.

6. Changing name of company or organisation to give it a greener ting: Total to TotalEnergies or Oil and Gas Authority to North Sea Transition Authority

7. Companies support Net Zero while opposing it through trade bodies and trade associations. The tobacco ring playbook.

8. Pretending that you can build a nuclear power station and roll it out in one year when it will take about 5 years to get a permit, 2 years for procurement and another year until a spade goes into the ground plus 5 years to complete and commission and you say you know what to do with nuclear waste which is an employment programme for Windscale in the North West of England.

My View

A free-market, energy-first perspective can agree with the carbon capture boondoggle, the CO2 offset racket, and the false promise of nuclear power.

But more generally, the list above reveals the weakness of many of today’s popular mitigation strategies necessitated or at least inspired by the Net Zero movement. A futile crusade, mitigation brings out gaming and other opportunistic behaviors. To me, it is reason to end the charade rather than further criminalize it (as the ESG movement wishes to do).

Traditional energy companies erred by engaging in imaging (remember Enron?) with their critics and foes. They should have:

  1. Defended their core competency against climate alarmists and government regulators with a superior moral case for affordable/reliable energy for the masses. (Alex Epstein has the case for them.)
  2. Rejected pie-in-the-sky investments like in algae (ExxonMobil) and carbon capture and storage.

These companies today would have avoided boondoggles and been heroic in a world screaming for more oil and gas–and coal.

Real Greenwashing

Back to the greenwash misdirection… Why not add U.S. DOE secretary Jennifer “Please get your rig count up” Granholm to the list? How about the wind and solar developers who really don’t care about the damage they cause around them? How about the whole biomass industry?

Even virtue signalers like John Kerry and Al Gore flying the world in private jets should be on the greenwash list? (Check their energy usage at all of their homes.)

And Greta–was she greenwashing for the climate politicos? She thinks so.

Final Comment

I invite Paul Watchman to reconsider climate alarmism and forced energy transformation. Adam Smith, a fellow professor at the University of Glasgow back in the 18th century, would surely be proud. Smith’s warning in 1759 applies to the climate/energy intelligentsia today:

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.

He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.


[1] Paul Watchman’s bio follows:

Paul Watchman has an international reputation as a pioneering lawyer. He was named by Ethical Corporation with Hank Paulson, former United States Secretary of the Treasury, as one of the six most influential global figures in the development of sustainable finance and has been awarded the Thomson Reuters Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Leadership Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Development of ESG (Environment Social and Governance) in 2010.

He has been highly influential in the development of policy, business and financial practice, national and international legal norms and voluntary codes and standards. Paul is a recognised authority and thought leader in a number of areas, including business and human rights, sustainable finance (including Equator Principals, corporate responsibility, climate change law and policy and environmental law generally. He has a proven track record as legal counsel advising global businesses and financial institutions, sovereign states, international and multinational organisations, NGOs and other public and private bodies.

Paul has also had a long association with the United Nations (UN) and the Principles of Responsible Investment. He has acted as Legal Counsel and Special Advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme Financial Initiative (UNEPFI) on a number of projects. Paul led the Freshfields pro bono team and was the principal author of the UN report on fiduciary duties. Known generally in the financial and investment sectors as The Freshfields Report, it has been said to be the most downloaded report in UN history. It is also credited with revolutionising market practice on the legality of integrating ESG considerations into the investment decision-making by pension funds and other investment houses.

Paul has made important contributions to civil society through pro bono work and representing the poorest members of society. This has encompassed working for or actively supporting a number of charities and other organisations, including Shelter, Emmaus , ShareAction, Amnesty, Protimos – a charity which supports the development of legal capacity to represent indigenous people in Southern Africa, Business Leaders in Human Rights, TBLI(Triple Bottom Line Initiative) Group, BankTrack and Acclimatise.

He currently works as a consultant on the ESG Advisory Group for The Blended Capital Group (TBCG). He regularly writes and publishes articles for Responsible Investor and lectures for UN EPFI, OECD, UN PRI, TBLI and ABA in all these matters.


  1. John W. Garrett  

    The fundamental, underlying problem is actually quite simple.

    The “Catastrophic/dangerous, CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming/climate change” CONJECTURE has precious little evidence. It is, at best, pseudoscience. At worst, it is “The Greatest Scientific Fraud in History™” (a description coined by Francis Menton, “Manhattan Contrarian”).

    ALL of the actions taken as a result of acceptance of this pseudoscience thus qualify as folly— and a gargantuan waste or misallocation of resources and capital.

    At bottom, the entire episode represents yet another chapter of “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds.”


  2. Gregory Rehmke  

    I’d add, on a positive note, that it’s not unusual for scientists and educated laymen to be mislead by doomsday culture. Overpopulation was the most important global concern for decades. Running out of resources was similarly the major concern for those who read the New York Times and followed popular science books and magazines. Just as overpopulation fears have shifted to population decline fears, and global cooling to global warming, fossil fuel use is a longtime “bad” even as the reasons have shifted. My career started when the national high school debate topic called for “an international organization to have control over all scarce world resources.” This followed the Arab Oil Embargo and gas lines. If only we had electric cars and windmills then, said advocates. Exxon and other oil companies took interest in high school debate, and my task was to promote Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource and others optimist about markets, natural resources, and ever cleaner fossil fuel energy.

    So… it’s okay to be misled by cultural focus on the misleading measures. But at some point, reality should dawn on honest researchers, as it did for Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, and many others.


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