Ahead of Toyota’s annual shareholder meeting on 14 June, families from across the world came together in a video message that has now over 1.2 million views across platforms. Parents and kids from six countries voiced their opposition to Toyota’s plans to increase sales of fossil-fuel burning combustion engine vehicles to a new record high of over 11 million this financial year.

Instead of ever-rising car sales, rising CO2 emissions, and worsening air pollution, parents and kids imagined safe futures. Futures in which walking, cycling and public transport were prioritised, traffic jams were a thing of the past, petrol engines were no more, and diverse e-mobility solutions were accessible for all. 

Over 90 percent of children worldwide breathe dirty air because of the burning of fossil fuels, with combustion engine cars a key contributor to these emissions. Our Kids’ Climate – a global network of parents who helped create the video – is calling for a rapid transition to clean renewable energy for the sake of children’s health and futures.  

The video involved the participation of groups on four continents: Australian Parents for Climate Action, Rodzice dla Klimatu – Parents For Future Poland, Mums for Lungs (UK), XR Families (UK), The Parents’ Climate Community (USA), Warrior Moms (India), and Parents for Future Kenya.

The parents’ campaign was just one part of a larger wave of action against Toyota. The world’s biggest carmaker faced a climate-related push from its shareholders for the first time, after the company was ranked the 3rd worst climate lobbyist in the world in 2021 by InfluenceMap – behind only Exxon and Chevron.

Three influential pension funds, AkademikerPension (Denmark), Storebrand (Norway) and APG (the Netherlands), proposed a resolution that called on Toyota to drastically improve disclosure of the company’s lobbying against climate action. Garnering the support of an unprecedented 15% of voting shareholders, Toyota is under considerable pressure to clean up their act on climate. 

The AGM also saw just 85% vote in support of Toyota chairperson Akio Toyoda – an 11% drop from last year – due to disquiet about corporate governance and Toyota’s strategic direction, with the company failing to significantly invest in climate friendly technologies like EVs. With anything under 90% considered bad in investor circles, support for Toyoda falling to 85% is considered “plain awkward”, according to Reuters.

Parents groups are promising further action against super polluter Toyota to protect the health and wellbeing of children and families across the world. 

As explained by Bhavreen Kandhari from Warrior Moms in India, “Children have a right to clean air, a healthy environment and a safe planet. In Delhi, our air is polluted because of the burning of fossil fuels. Every child is a smoker as soon as they’re born. We need Toyota to stop putting the brakes on the transition to clean energy. All children everywhere need to breathe clean air. ”  

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Japan and Toyota lobbying for fossil fuels.

Toyota proved once more that it prioritizes greenwashing PR over real climate action

At the G7 summit in June last year (2022), Japan watered down the climate ambition of the agreement by removing a key zero-emission vehicle target from the text.

According to Reuters reporting, this came after direct lobbying from Toyota boss and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), Mr Akio Toyoda, to stick to vague language designed to include fossil-fuel burning “hybrid” cars (which entirely by chance of course, would help prolong Toyota’s overwhelmingly combustion-engine business model)

So Japan hosting the G7 summit this year, May 19-21 in Hiroshima was a huge opportunity – both to strengthen climate action, and a chance for Toyota to show it had changed course under its new CEO, Koji Sato.

Ahead of the summit, the We Mean Business Coalition urged all G7 governments to commit to 100% zero emission vehicle sales by 2035. On the streets, activists from Public Citizen, Ecohustler, and Polluta (yours truly) staged protests outside Japanese embassies to demand a change of course.

So how did the G7 summit go? In terms of tackling road transport emissions, more of the same. Instead of a firm commitment by all its members to phasing out combustion engine cars,  the final communique just “highlighted various actions countries are taking, including policies for achieving 100% or the overwhelming penetration of sales for zero-emission vehicles… by 2035 and beyond”.

The document politely failed to mention that Japan is the only G7 country not taking this action. (see US proposal, Canada, Germany, Italy, France within the EU plan, and UK plan). 

We don’t have evidence of Toyota’s direct lobbying so far this year, but the outcome reflects Toyota’s stance, and contains several of its corporate talking points. For example, “Electrified” vehicles (caution: a positive-sounding term mostly used to refer to hybrid cars running on 100% fossil fuel as a power source) and “sustainable carbon-neutral fuels” (a magical, almost non-existent technology mainly used by the car and oil industries to wedge open a loophole for continued oil use in the car sector, which if it ever were scaled up, would still be a huge waste of energy, with just as much toxic NOx emissions as gasoline/petrol.)

But we do know Toyota attended and attempted to influence the outcome of the G7 summit, from two main public events.

First intervention: Toyota organised a media briefing in Hiroshima the day before the summit started, at which Akio Toyoda and Toyota’s “chief scientist” Gill Pratt repeated already-debunked talking points – claiming the world does not have enough minerals to transition to EVs (false) that we have to wait for more renewables infrastructure to be built before switching to EVs reduces emissions (false), and that “hybrid” fossil-fuel burning cars reduce emissions more than EVs (false).

(Editors note: we know Gill Pratt is not actually a “scientist” because a) he works for a car company, not an independent academic institution), and b) he endorses Toyota’s claim that it can achieve “carbon neutrality” with a mix of combustion engine and hybrid-combustion engine vehicles that emit CO2. There is no clear sense in which this claim *could* be scientifically true, and the company refuses to clarify it)

Second intervention: Even after he stepped down as CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda remains the President of Japan’s auto industry lobby group JAMA. At the G7 JAMA organised a wonderfully ironic photoshoot of six elderly male CEOs standing in front of a colourful sign saying “Diversity in Carbon Neutrality”. 

Diversity in Carbon Neutrality

(image source: Getty Images)


This is very similar to Big Oil’s PR strategy  – portray yourself as an authority on climate by talking about ‘a diverse energy mix” and diverse “low-carbon solutions” while lobbying to prolong and expand your main incumbent fossil-fuelled business model that makes climate change worse.

In reality, Toyota is not seriously pursuing a diverse range of clean technologies. 99.6% of the vehicles it sold last year had an exhaust pipe and burn oil products that drive climate change.

Toyota is not really, as it claims, moving towards “carbon neutrality”, but in the opposite direction – ramping up its combustion engine car sales to a new record high this financial year, meaning rising annual CO2 emissions, with no end in sight.

But while at this year’s G7 the Toyota may have got its way and stalled climate action, the next big test will be its upcoming shareholders meeting in mid-June.

Three of Toyota’s own shareholders have submitted a resolution asking the company to review its anti-climate lobbying activities, on the basis that this could damage the company’s brand value.

Let’s see how many shareholders vote in favour of reappointing Akio Toyoda as chairman of the board, after his repeated, tired old misleading statements at the G7.


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