The multinational mining giant Glencore spent millions bankrolling a secret, globally coordinated campaign to prop up coal demand by undermining environmental activists, influencing politicians and spreading sophisticated pro-coal messaging on social media.
An investigation by Guardian Australia can reveal the covert campaign, dubbed “Project Caesar”, was orchestrated by world-renowned political operatives at the C|T Group, the firm founded by Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor.
The C|T Group used teams in Sydney and London to further Glencore’s interests across the globe, including in Australia, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project and documents seen by Guardian Australia.
Project Caesar began in early 2017 with an annual warchest of between £4m and £7m. Glencore has confirmed the project’s existence but said it moved to shut it down last month to “ensure alignment” with its recent decision to limit coal production for environmental reasons.
The campaign aimed to engage key politicians, both to gauge their views on coal and attempt to convince them of its continuing value.
Intelligence was collected about key coal detractors, including Greenpeace and 350.org, detailing their budgets, social media reach, and issues that could be used to embarrass or undermine them.
A sophisticated digital campaign was mounted to help shift public sentiment towards coal, using messaging informed by research, focus groups and polling conducted in multiple countries.
Campaign teams helped set up online grassroots groups to push positive messaging about clean coal technology, attack renewables and criticise the Australian Labor party. The practice is commonly known as astroturfing.
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