CEO Koji Sato. Photo credit: Toyota corporate website media centre


Toyota last week published its annual review of its climate lobbying practices, called Toyota’s Views on Climate Public Policies 2023.  Has the company finally come clean and changed course?

First, some context. At its AGM in June 2023, several of its major shareholders voted for a resolution calling on the company to make these reviews of its climate lobbying much more rigorous and transparent, especially on whether it was aligned with the Paris Agreement, and aligned with Toyota’s own goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The investors explained the business case for doing so:

“Such disclosures could serve to mitigate reputational and other risks, including potential backlash from customers, business partners, employees and investors associated with the Company’s climate-related lobbying activities in recent years.”

These investors hoped the company would listen, transparently convey where its lobbying was misaligned with climate goals, and change these practices.

However, a read of Toyota’s latest review shows that it is still, sadly, filled with false claims about the company’s lobbying stance, and false claims about climate science. 


CLAIM: “Toyota supports the Paris Agreement”

REALITY: Toyota is lobbying against the regulations required to meet the Paris Agreement.

Let’s look at a specific real-world example. The Paris Agreement goal of striving to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5C requires roughly halving global emissions by 2030, according to the IPCC, requiring deep decarbonisation of all sectors of the economy.

In the world’s 2nd largest emitting country, the US, the biggest emitting sector is transport, led by passenger vehicles. To get even close to a Paris Agreement-aligned emissions pathway requires a rapid phase-out of the sale of new fossil-fuel cars, to make sure that only zero-emission vehicles are added to the road by 2035, according to the IEA

The Biden Administration’s flagship climate policy of tougher tailpipe emissions standards gets pretty close to this-  the proposed rules would require between 64% to 67% of new car sales to be zero emission by 2032, paving the way to a fully zero-emission market in the 2030s.

However in a July 2023 consultation response, Toyota opposed the EPA’s proposed higher GHG emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, advocating to reduce proposed zero-emission 2030 and 2032 vehicle penetration rates. (source: InfluenceMap).

Then in an October 2023 US consultation response, Toyota also opposed higher proposed US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks, advocated to maintain numerous flexibilities that would weaken the rule’s stringency, and appeared to question the legality of the rule. (source: InfluenceMap).

The reality is that Toyota is lobbying the US to not implement emissions reductions aligned with the Paris Agreement. If the company succeeds, and the 2nd biggest country emitter in the world surges past safe climate guardrails, scientists say there are global consequences for us all.

Moreover, the arguments that Toyota is using in this lobbying are also unscientific: For example it is trying to scare US policymakers into thinking there is a scarcity of the minerals required to make enough EV batteries to meet its proposed timeline.

“Toyota believes the final regulations must account for key issues, such as the scarcity of minerals to make batteries, the fact that these minerals are not mined or refined in the U.S., the inadequate infrastructure, and the high cost of BEVs.” (Source: Toyota submission to EPA)

This is false – there is not a scarcity of nickel, cobalt, or lithium constraining the rapid scale-up of EV sales, according to pure-electric automakers like Tesla, who support the EPA proposal, and according to the world’s scientific community in the IPCC.

As the IPCC report 2023 puts it, “The environmental footprint of battery production and growing concerns about critical minerals can be addressed by material and supply diversification strategies, energy and material efficiency improvements, and circular material flows (medium confidence).” (section 4.5.3).

Which brings us on to…

CLAIM: “Toyota… is conducting public policy engagement activities based on the scientific findings of the IPCC.”

REALITY. Toyota’s policy engagement is not based on the scientific findings of the IPCC. 

The IPCC’s latest 2023 report states, “Electric vehicles powered by low-emissions electricity offer the largest decarbonisation potential for land-based transport, on a life cycle basis (high confidence).” (section 4.5.3 -)

In comparison, Toyota publicly argues against a full transition to EVs, refuses to give a date by which it will move to 100% EV sales, and instead argues that a “multi-pronged approach” of continued combustion engine cars including 100% petrol hybrids, and plug-in hybrids, can actually reduce emissions faster than EVs: “The data shows a more effective approach to reduce more carbon sooner is to promote a multi-pathway strategy (PHEV, HEV, BEV and FCEV).”

The IPCC’s detailed lifecycle analysis of each of these rival technologies shows that Toyota’s claim is categorically false.

Moreover, since its 2023 AGM the company has expanded its misleading, pseudoscientific marketing of 100% petrol-fuelled hybrid vehicles as “electric” or “electrified”, contradicting the IPCC’s own definition of an electric vehicle. As Public Citizen explained in their complaint to the US advertising regulator about Toyota, “If manufacturers categorize cars that run primarily or entirely on fossil fuels as ‘electric’ or ‘EVs,’ then what do those words even mean?”

Toyota tries to argue that the IPCC supports its “multi-pronged approach” as follows:

The latest Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific review of the world’s latest findings, states that in addition to BEVs powered by low emissions electricity, the use of sustainable biofuels, low emissions hydrogen, and derivatives (including synthetic fuels), and fuel efficiency improvements are also effective ways to mitigate GHG emissions.”

But this is false: the IPCC 2023 AR6 report actually describes these as potential options for “shipping, aviation, and heavy-duty land transport,” not passenger vehicles.

“Sustainable biofuels, low-emissions hydrogen, and derivatives (including synthetic fuels) can support mitigation of CO2 emissions from shipping, aviation, and heavy-duty land transport but require production process improvements and cost reductions (medium confidence).” (section 4.5.3)

In the context of passenger vehicles, the IPCC makes clear that none of these suggestions are as effective at reducing emissions as EVs.

Let’s touch on Toyota’s view on hydrogen. In its review of its lobbying stance, it says of hydrogen: ” We believe that these technologies have the potential to expand the options for achieving carbon neutrality at an early stage… “

But this is false, at least in the cars context: Toyota publicly admitted at the Japan Mobility Show that its hydrogen passenger car Mirai has not been successful, so it is pivoting to heavy duty uses now. 

CLAIM: “We support regulations that are predictable, technology neutral, and that allow us to provide safe and affordable vehicles to our customers.”

REALITY – Toyota opposed exactly this type of technology-neutral zero-emission vehicle regulation in the UK last year, while most other automakers supported it.

In a May 2023 public UK consultation response found via FOI request, Toyota advocated to effectively delay the UK’s ZEV mandate by pushing for 2024 to be a monitoring year only, alongside pushing for a weaker mandate trajectory for cars, and emphasizing concerns around the proposed trajectory for vans. In the same consultation, Toyota advocated weakening the UK’s ICE phase-out policy by including the sales of ICE-powered hybrids from 2030-35. (Source: InfluenceMap)

There is no transparent acknowledgement by Toyota in its disclosure document that it lobbied to weaken and delay this regulation, even though it was the most important policy required for the UK to meet the Paris Agreement – according to the UK government’s own climate advisory body.

There is no apology, or even acceptance that this lobbying stance was wrong. 

Third-Party Evaluations of Industry Associations

Toyota’s review finds that the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) and many other lobby groups it pays are “aligned” on the goal of Consistency with the Paris Agreement, on the basis that they have made a statement of support for Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But it doesn’t investigate whether these statements are actually true, it just takes them at face value. This is not a serious review of the activity of its lobby groups. As the UN High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities found, a statement of support for Net Zero by 2050 on its own is completely inadequate to assess whether any organisation or company is actually acting in line with climate science, and is often simply greenwashing to obscure bad corporate behaviour.

Even on its own terms, “Net Zero by 2050” is an inadequate description of the Paris Agreement temperature goals, which to be met require almost halving emissions this decade, according to the IPCC. Many of the regulations that AA and other associations Toyota belongs to are lobbying to weaken or prevent the climate policies required for this urgent short-term action this decade.

In summary, Toyota’s published response to investor pressure for more transparency about its climate lobbying:

–Contains many demonstrably false claims

–Fails to disclose or acknowledge recent, documented negative lobbying efforts

–Tries to distort IPCC climate science to suit its own commercial interests.

This suggests a serious corporate culture issue, and leadership issue, that the company needs to address for the good of its shareholders and the planet.


Matt Bonner’s “Beyond Zero” reclaimed advert, London, UK

Move over Exxon – the competition to be the most greenwashing, climate science denying mega-polluter in the world is heating up.

The world’s biggest manufacturer of cars, Toyota, has recently launched a new marketing campaign called “Beyond Zero”. This campaign is so full of pseudoscientific nonsense, we thought we’d give it a quick debunking in this blog.

Meaningless pseudoscience

Like any good greenwashing campaign, fluffy environmental language gives a whiff of legitimacy – after being cleared by the legal department to avoid anything definitive enough to land them in court.

Let’s start with the phrase itself, “Beyond Zero”, described as “Toyota’s vision to reach beyond carbon neutrality with its products, services and operations”.

“Beyond carbon neutrality” certainly sounds like it’s more ambitious than a typical corporate climate goal of zero emissions – good vibes all round! But what does it actually mean?

“Does ‘Beyond Zero’ mean Toyota’s EV sales will move beyond 0% of its combustion engine car sales, and reach 1%?”

Has Toyota strengthened its climate targets maybe? No, a quick look at their latest sustainability book (page 42) reveals this is unchanged – to achieve carbon neutrality for GHG emissions by 2050. (let’s not even go into how this phrasing leaves the door open for just buying some meaningless “carbon offsets” rather than actually reducing emissions).

The intermediate goals before 2050 are all per vehicle rather than outright emissions goals – e.g. “Reduce average GHG emissions from new vehicles by 33% in 2030 (compared to 2019 levels)”. But because the total number of vehicles sold each year is increasing faster than this improvement in efficiency per vehicle, the result is that overall emissions keep rising.

That indeed is what’s happened; according to its own data (see page 47 of its sustainability book), Toyota’s total emissions rose by a whopping 45% year-on-year to reach 575 million tons of CO2e in FY2022 – more than BP, TotalEnergies or Chevron.

So no, Toyota is not moving towards carbon neutrality, let alone “Beyond Zero” – it is in fact moving in the opposite direction. Toyota’s emissions are rising sharply, and will continue to rise as it enacts the plan it has publicly conveyed to its shareholders; to ramp up sales of its core product and add over 11 million new combustion engine vehicles to the roads this fiscal year.

This “Beyond Zero” slogan will also be a “new on-vehicle badge”. Are any of Toyota’s individual car models somehow “Beyond Zero”? To be fair to Toyota, it has finally started selling an EV with zero tailpipe emissions – the BZ4X which was the first model to include the words “Beyond Zero” in its name. But these made up just 0.2% of Toyota’s sales in 2022, the lowest EV share of any of the top five big carmakers. None of these rivals – far beyond Toyota in the transition to EVs – have the cheek to claim their zero-tailpipe EVs are somehow “beyond” zero emissions – implying they magically suck CO2 out of the air.

Moreover, it seems likely that Toyota will not only use the “Beyond Zero” tag on its miniscule EV offering – but also to brand its “hybrid” vehicles, the vast majority of which run solely on petrol/gasoline.

It must be maddening for climate scientists when the fossil fuels they say we desperately need to phase out are rebranded as having already solved climate change, and somehow moved beyond it.

Saying the quiet bit out loud…

Most interestingly, Toyota openly admits that the goal of the “Beyond Zero” marketing campaign is to distract attention away from EVs.

“Big picture, the “Beyond Zero” campaign aims to shift the conversation about electrification from the auto industry’s narrow focus on battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to a broader perspective that encompasses Toyota’s more ambitious — and some would say more realistic — portfolio approach to transitioning away from internal combustion engines.”

Why would the largest incumbent combustion engine automaker, that’s lagging furthest behind all other big five automakers on the EV race, want to “shift the conversation” away from EVs? I can’t imagine.

But tell me more, Toyota, about your “more ambitious” portfolio of technologies to transition away from internal combustion engines?

“That includes hybrid EVs, plug-in hybrid EVs, fuel cell EVs and battery EVs.”

Brilliant. Toyota’s first two options to help us move away from internal combustion engines HAVE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES.

Ok what about those hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, surely they will help us get Beyond Zero? Umm no, Toyota has just last month admitted that its expensive and inefficient hydrogen passenger cars have “not been successful”, and that it will focus its hydrogen program on trucks instead. Even if we wait the rest of this decade, (you know, the decade in which climate scientists say we have to urgently act to halve global emissions to maintain a liveable planet), hydrogen fuel cell cars will remain so niche they’ll round to 0% of Toyota’s car sales in 2029.

Perhaps this is the real meaning of “Beyond Zero” – that Toyota’s fuel cell and EV sales move beyond 0% of its annual combustion engine car sales, and closer to 1%.

So in summary, Toyota wants to shift the energy transition conversation away from EVs, towards a “portfolio” of options which all turn out to be either petrol-powered, or nonsense, except the EVs we’re supposed to stop focusing on.

Keeping EV-curious consumers locked into petrol/gasoline 

Why does all this matter? Because it slows down the energy transition. Toyota is explicitly targeting this campaign at people who are already curious about switching to EVs, but instead of encouraging them to go for it, the aim is to redirect their EV enthusiasm towards some greenwashed petrol/gas cars instead.

In their words: “Based on focus group testing, Christ and Tripp [the company’s VP and marketing VP] are confident the “Beyond Zero” campaign will resonate with customers who are curious about the move away from internal combustion engines but are uncertain about when and how to engage.”

Governments from around the world will discuss the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels at this years’ COP28 climate summit.

But the world’s largest car company already has a plan to slow down this desperate race against time – the race of our lives – merely to prolong its vast profits from a legacy fossil fuel business model that should already be history.

“It will be a constant part of our paid advertising for the foreseeable future,” says Toyota.

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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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