On Environmental Traitors and Humanity’s Backstabbers
(Otherwise known as industry giants that pay to dilute and delay Climate Change Legislation)
We have all heard tell how some companies are paying millions of dollars to lobby against climate change legislation. Well, here are some concrete examples (but by all means, not a definitive list):
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
Embroiled in a fake lobbying scandal against the US Climate Bill and trying to hide the extent of its lobbying activities
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is the US coal industry’s public relations organisation. ACCCE spent at least $45 million on advertising in 2008 to convince Americans that “clean coal” is the solution to climate change. Yet at the same time the coal and electric utility industries spent over $125 million in the first nine months of 2008 lobbying Congress to delay global warming pollution reductions until clean coal technology is ready.
In response, five environmental organizations in the US – led by the Alliance for Climate Protection – have created the “Reality Coalition” to argue that “in reality, there is no such thing as ‘clean coal’.”
The Fake Lobby Scandal
In August 2009, it was revealed that ACCCE was embroiled in a fake letter writing campaign that had tried to undermine the US Climate Bill, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill.
ACCCE had hired the lobbying consultancy, the Hawthorn Group to run a lobbying campaign against the Climate Bill. In turn, Hawthorn employed Bonner and Associates, an “astroturf-specialist” PR company that has a history of working for controversial industries such as big tobacco and Pharma, to orchestrate a fake grassroots uprising against the Bill.
In total Bonner and Associates and fellow subcontractor Lincoln Strategies sent legislators at least 199 letters, along with 4,000 phone calls on the Climate Bill. At least 12 of those letters are known to be fraudulent, purporting to be from groups opposed to the Bill.
The letters were drafted to appear as if they were sent by nine different groups, including senior citizens’ organizations, Hispanic groups, women’s advocacy groups and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They even included forged letter heads and completely fictitious signatories.
One forged letter stated: “Many of our seniors, as you know, are on low fixed incomes. Some of our seniors have even received decreases to their social security payments, further making it a difficult choice to meet the basic necessities of life (food, prescription medication and the like). The cost to heat and cool their homes, run hot water and use other appliances is very important to those seniors on a budget. ... Our state gets 56% of its electricity from coal. We urge you to pass legislation that reduces greenhouse gases but at the same time protects seniors and consumers from unaffordable increases in the basic necessity of electricity.”
After the scandal broke, Congressman Edward Markey, one of the Climate Bill’s authors, said: “We’ve seen fear-mongering with our nation’s senior citizens with health care, and now we’re seeing fraud-mongering with senior citizens on clean energy.” An investigation by his committee found that, despite the fact that ACCCE had learned about Bonner’s forgeries two days before the critical vote on the Climate Bill, it did not notify Congress until several weeks later.
“The deliberate inaction prior to the House vote and the extended silence after the vote – some 40 days after ACCCE knew what had happened – raises serious concerns,” Markey wrote in a letter to ACCCE President and CEO Stephen L. Miller.
After the revelations caused national outrage, ACCCE and Bonner claimed the forgeries uncovered were the work of a rogue employee who was fired. But when further forgeries were found, the evidence suggested it was a much more concerted and widespread effort.
During a congressional hearing into the forgeries, Markey said: “Some here today will claim these letters can be attributed to a temporary employee, when, in fact, this fraud chiefly resulted from a systemic lack of oversight and quality control, mixed with a substantial disregard for the facts.”
Also a leaked document sent to Congressman Markey’s office on behalf of Bonner and Associates included a set of “talking points” that specifically instructed employees to lie to the community organizations they were calling. They were told to say they were working with seniors/veterans groups and that other seniors/veterans groups had written the letter they would be signing, whereas in fact they were working directly for a coal industry front group.
The memo instructed Bonner employees, the “vast majority” of whom are temporary workers hired to generate calls and letters to Congress from pre-selected organizational targets, to “Relate to the group that you are approaching” and “Make the conversation personal.”
Despite the scandal, ACCCE announced that it was to continue using the Hawthorn Group for a new $1 million campaign to win support from Senate Democrats to overturn action on climate at the Senate. The new PR project intends to use 225,000 volunteers dubbed “America’s Power Army”, who will visit town hall meetings and other functions attended by members of Congress and ask questions about energy policy.
Third Party Letter Writing is “Not Lobbying”
In October 2009, Edward Markey’s Committee announced that they were widening their inquiry into the fake letters into non-disclosure of lobbying. This is important as transparency rules in the US mean that all lobbying activity must be declared on a central register. The Committee asked ACCCE whether its lobbying disclosure for 2008 and the first half of 2009 should have included work conducted by the Hawthorn Group, to coordinate efforts to fight the Climate Bill.
ACCCE paid Hawthorn Group more than $7 million in 2008 and nearly $3 million in the first half of 2009 to lobby on its behalf, yet ACCCE’s lobbying records did not reflect this. From April to June of 2009, the crucial months running up to the vote, ACCCE paid Hawthorn $975,000 for activities related to the climate Bill. However, during the same three-month period, ACCCE reported spending a total of just $545,000 on lobbying activities.
ACCCE’s lawyers have argued that the letter-writing campaign by the Hawthorn Group does not count as lobbying under the congressional definition in the Lobbying Disclosure Act, as it was written by a third-party and not ACCCE.
Others disagree. Lee Mason, from OMB Watch, a government watchdog organization, says any attempt to influence a lawmaker’s vote, “would be considered lobbying. If they’re telling them to take some very specific action, once you tell Congress to take a position on it, you have actively engaged in a lobbying activity.”
American Petroleum Institute (API)
Responsible for organizing an “astroturf” campaign against the US Climate Bills.
In August 2009, a leaked memo from the API revealed it had invited its membership to attend a series of rallies in 20 key states, in order to give the impression of a groundswell of fake grassroots opposition to the climate legislation.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the key oil industry lobby organization in the United States, representing some 400 companies that cover the spectrum of the oil and gas industry, from the largest major to the smallest independent.
The API has a history of lobbying against legislation on climate change. As far back as 1998, the API plotted to roll out an anti-Kyoto campaign, as revealed in a memo leaked at the time: “Victory will be achieved when … the media understands (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science … those promoting the Kyoto Treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”
The API has been lobbying vehemently against the most recent climate legislation to pass through the US Congress: the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, after its authors. The Bill was approved by the lower House of Representatives in June 2009. The vote was the first time Congress had approved legislation designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
So far in 2009, the API has spent over $4.1 million on political lobbying, much of it directed at trying to defeat the Bill. It was outraged that Congress passed it. “The bill will cost Americans billions of dollars in higher costs, kill jobs and will not deliver the environmental benefits promised,” API President Jack Gerard said. “We are hopeful that the Senate will produce a bill that does not harm the economy and includes a more balanced approach to transportation fuels and natural gas.”
You can see why the API was so worried. As a New York Times editorial put it: “What the oil companies are probably worried about is that people and industries will consume less of their product as alternatives appear and consumers become more energy-efficient. But isn’t that the point of the exercise?”
Hence the API’s astroturf campaign, which they called “Energy Citizen”, that the API held over Congress’s Summer recess. It was mainly targeted at key politicians from the US Senate which were due to debate and potentially adopt a similar Climate Bill to the Waxman-Markey Bill. The Senate legislation is called the Kerry-Boxer Bill, after the Senators promoting it.
Astroturfing is a public relations and lobbying technique where an organization like the API sets up a fake grassroots movement to give the false impression of a popular movement for or against proposed legislation, or other regulatory action.
Big business has a history of setting up astroturf groups with the name “Citizen” in them, such as the Global Climate Coalition (set up by an oil company) and Citizens for the Environment (business lobbyists fighting the clean air act). The unsuspecting public does not see the dirty hand of big oil, they just see ordinary people.
The API proposed a series of rallies across the country populated with API members’ staff, purporting to be ordinary citizens. According to a leaked API memo, the objective of the rallies was to “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states’ U.S. Senators to avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill and the Obama Administration’s tax increases on our industry.” So, the public sees workers fighting for jobs, not big oil fighting climate legislation.
In the same leaked memo, API President Gerard notes the effectiveness of their scaremongering campaign in changing public opinion: “Our messages on Waxman-Markey-like legislation work extremely well and are very persuasive with the general public and policy influentials. After hearing that Waxman-Markey-like legislation could increase the costs of gasoline to around $4 and lead to significant job losses, these audiences changed their opinions on the bill significantly.”
This figure of $4 a gallon for gasoline, which is used to scare the public, is from a calculation made by the Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation. It predicted a rise in gasoline prices to “$4 by 2035”. The API conveniently left out the 2035 date. It also ignored figures from the US Environmental Protection Agency, which show that the overall cost of the Bill would, in fact, be around 22-30c a day, or under $100 a year.
The API chose the cities where it was going to hold its rallies carefully. They were in the 20 states and local districts of Congressmen who were in marginal seats and the states of Senators who hold the key votes to getting the Bill through the Senate.
The API counts as members companies who publicly purport to care about climate change, like Shell and BP. Shell has distanced itself from the campaign, although it said that its employees were free to go to the rallies. BP also says it supports the Waxman-Markey Bill. But neither appears to have done anything to dissuade the API of its plans.
However, the API’s lobbying campaign backfired when its memo was leaked to Greenpeace, despite API President Jack Gerard stressing in the memo: “Please treat this information as sensitive and we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”
Yet, the astroturf Energy Citizens website continues to oppose the Senate climate legislation, arguing it is a “huge new energy tax on farmers, truckers, small businesses and America’s families” that “imperils millions of US jobs.”
In the “About” section on the website it still states: “Energy Citizens is a nationwide alliance of organisations and individuals formed to bring together people across America to remind Congress that energy is the backbone of our nation’s economy and our way of life.”
Nowhere does it say it is an astroturf campaign run by the API. One clue to the API’s involvement is that Energy Citizen’s postal address is the same as the API’s.
The American Petroleum Institute was asked to comment on its nomination for the Angry Mermaid Award but did not respond.
European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC)
Successfully lobbying for free allowances under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and weaken EU and international climate policies.
The main players in the European chemical industry are all members of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), which lobbies on their behalf at the EU level. Members include chemical giants Arkema, BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, ExxonMobil Chemical, Shell Chemicals and Solvay.
The chemical industry is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, burning 12% of all energy in the EU. As a result, it has been involved in a vigorous campaign to escape EU measures to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – one of the EU’s key mechanisms for reducing emissions – industry is effectively required to buy the right to pollute through a system of emissions permits. The chemicals industry has so far been excluded from the first two phases of the scheme, but will be covered by Phase Three, which runs from 2013-2020.
During a recent review of the ETS, Cefic lobbied the EU, warning that the ETS would increase industry costs and force its members to relocate to countries with no CO2 restrictions. This, it argued, would result in job losses in Europe and continued damage to the global environment. ‘Carbon leakage’, as this is known – when there is an increase in emissions in one country as a result of an emissions reduction by a second country ¬– has become one of the most contentious factors of the ETS review.
Cefic is also actively lobbying the EU to reduce – or at least not increase – their emission reduction commitments at the climate talks in Copenhagen. The chemical industry wants a new international agreement to include equivalent targets for both industrialized countries and emerging economies – despite existing international agreements that say that developed countries must bear the brunt of the cost of tackling climate change.
However, at the same time as lobbying for weaker targets, Cefic has launched a PR campaign to highlight how the chemicals industry is, in fact, helping reduce emissions levels in Europe. Its materials highlight the sustainable nature of products launched in the run up to the Copenhagen climate talks. For example, a set of postcards illustrate “Chemistry. Innovative climate change solutions”. The campaign claims, among other things, that the use of chemicals makes cars more sustainable, shows the role of chemicals in different renewable energies and the part played by agrochemicals in emissions reductions.
The same message has also been promoted by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), which launched a report in July 2009 claiming that the benefits of the chemical industry’s products, in terms of emission savings, were two to three times greater than their carbon footprint.
According to documents obtained via access to information requests, Cefic has been very actively pushing for discussions on the ETS review with the European Commission. It has done this through face-to-face meetings and letters to both the Environment and Enterprise departments. In a letter dated 14 December 2007, for example, Cefic’s Director General, Alain Perroy, wrote to Commissioner Dimas warning: “We are ready to mobilize all forces to have a fruitful consultation on this occasion.”
According to Avril Doyle, an Irish MEP who has worked on the ETS in the European Parliament, the German chemical industry, along with German coal, has been the most effective lobbyist on Phase Three of the ETS.
CEFIC’s Lobbying Impact
Cefic’s lobbying has had an impact. When the first proposals for the latest phase of ETS were announced, they included plans to auction an increasing number of emissions trading permits. Previously, industry has been allocated an allowance of free permits to pollute. Under this new phase, industry would now have to pay for them instead.
This led to an intensive lobbying operation from 2007 on, which emphasized the threat of the EU’s chemicals industry being forced to relocate – the so-called ‘carbon leakage’ argument. After pressure from several Member states – in particular Germany where the chemical industry is an important sector – the EU Commission gave way and agreed to hand over free allocations to certain sectors, which were considered ‘at risk’ of carbon leakage.
Cefic lobbied intensively to ensure that as many sectors of the chemicals industry as possible were included in this list of sectors ‘at risk’. When a draft list was published in April 2009, Cefic complained that its needs had not been adequately considered, even though most of the sectors it wanted included were included. However, after meetings between Cefic and the Commission, it succeeded in securing a place for both the fertilizer and nitrogen compound sectors on the all-important ‘at risk’ list.
Lobbying by Cefic also helped secure an early publication date of the list of ‘at risk’ sectors, which are to be excluded from the auction process. The EU Commission had wanted to publish this list after the climate talks so as not to influence the outcome, but Cefic and others successfully pushed for this to be brought forward, giving the industry greater certainty.
According to the Greens, these compromises were a “dramatic retreat” from earlier commitments. The Greens and environmental groups had called for full auctioning of emissions permits from 2013. Green MEP Caroline Lucas, a shadow draftsperson on the original legislation, noted: “The proposals on ETS… risk creating a monster. Allocating such a large proportion of emissions permits for free … would turn the ETS into a windfall profit machine for Europe’s most polluting industries.”
Under the adopted ETS proposal, industries that account for over three quarters of all emissions (outside the power sector) will now receive some free permits – with only the most polluting factories required to buy permits from the market.
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Leading lobbying efforts by the major airlines against climate legislation and issuing misleading and “meaningless” pledges on reducing emissions.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the main lobbying organisation representing the international airline industry. Its members include the world’s leading long-haul airlines, like American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas and United Airlines.
For over a decade IATA has led the industry’s efforts against regulatory action on climate change. The PR strategy has been two pronged, including huge amounts of greenwashing, and blatant manipulation of its ecological impact. Its messaging has been described by the industry watchdog, Transport and Environment (T&E), as being “almost always 100% away from the truth”.
IATA has lobbied politicians arguing that the airline industry is part of the solution to climate change, not the problem. Its lobbying campaign intensified in December 2005 when the IATA board endorsed an industry-wide strategy to tackle climate change. This advocated green technology and infrastructure changes as solutions, rather than taxes on fuel or emissions. The concept of curtailing the industry’s rapid growth is never discussed.
Since then, IATA has repeatedly argued that “technology is the key” to solving climate change. To back this up, IATA claims that “aircraft entering today’s fleets are 70% more fuel efficient than they were 40 years ago.” However, an analysis undertaken by the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory for T&E found that “today’s commercial passenger planes are no more fuel-efficient than their equivalents of fifty years ago and aviation industry claims of a 70% improvement in fuel-efficiency are false.”
IATA has also repeatedly played down aviation’s contribution to climate change, arguing that “Air transport contributes a small part of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions: 2%.” In fact, T&E points out that the 2% figure “was true in 1992”, but that this was “only for CO2 emissions”.
Whereas IATA likes to talk solely about CO2, it omits to mention the global warming impact of nitrogen oxide emissions, contrails and cirrus clouds – all caused by aviation – the impacts of which are two to five times greater than that of CO2 alone. In a myth-busting report, T&E argues: “The contribution of aviation to climate change is currently 4-9% at the global level and 5-12% in the EU.”
One IATA lobbying document even claims that, despite all the evidence of aircraft being the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions: “Air transport contributes to the stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere by continuously increasing fuel and carbon efficiency.”
Lobbying to undermine the EU schemes to tackle climate change
IATA has led the industry’s lobbying and advertising campaigns against aviation being included in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), one of Europe’s key mechanisms for reducing emissions. It has been accused by the NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, of campaigning “to fight or hijack the scheme in their interests.” For example, in June 2008, just as political negotiations on the scheme reached a critical stage, IATA spent €80,000 on a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, urging politicians to “stop plans to punish airlines and travelers with an ETS that will only invite international legal battles.”
IATA actually encouraged legal challenges to the EU ETS. In August 2008, its director general Giovanni Bisignani urged Australia to challenge Europe’s “unilateral and illegal” move to bring aviation into ETS. “What right does Europe have, for example, to tax an Australian plane flying from Asia to Europe for emissions over Afghanistan?” he said.
IATA has been working on a proposal to pre-empt moves to include aviation in the UN Copenhagen climate change conference in December 2009. The industry is terrified of being singled out during the talks, as scientists and politicians become increasingly concerned about rising aircraft emissions, which are projected to increase fourfold, if they are not properly controlled.
IATA made a pre-emptive strike in September 2009 at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York, when the CEO of British Airways, Willie Walsh, announced that the aviation industry would cut carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050. The announcement was intended to undermine regulation of the industry at December’s climate talks.
Willie Walsh’s announcement was met with skepticism from environmental groups and the press. Greenpeace called it “little more than an elaborate conjuring trick, designed to make the world believe that the airline industry is serious about climate change, while it carries on with business as usual.” The Times reported that it was intended to “fend off calls for new taxes on flying and criticism that they are failing to act quickly enough in the fight against climate change.”
Moreover, when industry analysts went through the figures they discovered they were flawed: the UK-based Aviation Environment Foundation (AEF) found that Walsh had talked about “net” cuts, which are not the same as real cuts. This allows the industry to use emissions trading and carbon offsets to create the impression of reductions in CO2, both of which are increasingly seen as flawed solutions. Apparently IATA had considered a 50% absolute reduction, but decided it was not achievable.
To reduce net CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 (compared with 2005 levels) is actually far less ambitious than the targets set for other sectors. The G8 countries have agreed to 80% cuts. This means that other sectors will have to reduce emissions by even more than 80% to make up the difference.
The move was even criticized from within the industry itself: the low-cost carrier, EasyJet, which is not an IATA member, had backed a 50% reduction, but said: “Rather than using offsets and buying emission permits from other sectors, we should be reducing absolute emissions.”
Finally, as T&E points out, the announcement was effectively “meaningless”, as the 2050 target was only ever “aspirational”.
International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)
Promoting a global market for greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of offsets through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), even though this currently cannot guarantee emission reductions.
The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) describes itself as a “non profit business organization” created to “establish a… framework for trading in greenhouse gas emission reductions”. Formed in 1999, it has 168 member companies, including big energy (BP, Shell, Vattenfall); banks (BNP Parisbas, Goldman Sachs); lawyers (Clifford Chance, Norton Rose,); and carbon trading companies (including EcoSecurities). It works in partnership with bodies like the World Bank to develop “an active, global greenhouse gas market.”
A lobbying powerhouse in climate talks
In just over ten years, IETA has become a lobbying powerhouse at the UN climate change talks. At two of the most important recent UN meetings on climate change – held in Bali and Poznan – IETA had the largest accredited non-governmental delegation (lobby groups are accredited as non-governmental organizations, or NGOs), dwarfing the presence of established NGOs such as Greenpeace.
In Bali, for example, with some 336 representatives including lawyers, financiers, consultants, certifiers and emissions trading experts, IETA made up 7.5% of the 4,483 NGO delegates at the UN climate talks. The sheer size of IETA’s presence worried environmental and development groups at the conference. Peter Hardstaff, from the World Development Movement commented: “The fact that the IETA is the biggest NGO in Bali is indicative of the influence it will extend over the outcome of the talks.”
In Poznan, IETA once again had the biggest NGO presence with over 250 lobbyists. The lobby group had hired a whole building where it was holding up to 12 events per day, described by one delegate as a “real parallel conference”. IETA is already gearing up for a large lobbying presence at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen with some 66 events scheduled.
Promoting the CDM
IETA uses these events to promote the idea of a totally global market in greenhouse gases, a mechanism which allows corporations and governments to buy and sell the right to pollute. Key to this market is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows governments and industry in developed countries to claim to be making carbon reductions by investing in supposed “clean developments” in the developing world. This is also known as offsetting.
The CDM has been severely criticized because it allows rich countries to avoid making emissions cuts at home. There is also strong evidence that some of its projects are creating serious social and environmental problems in developing countries. According to David Victor, a leading carbon trading analyst at Stanford University, two-thirds of the supposed emission reduction credits being produced by the CDM are not backed by real reductions in pollution.
Some even argue that the CDM increases pollution. In 2008, at an IETA lobbying event at the European Parliament, a participant from the Öko-Institut commented that by giving credit to what is effectively business as usual, the CDM “results in a global increase of greenhouse gas emissions.”
A key area of controversy is the ‘additional’ nature of CDM projects: that is where projects that qualify for CDM credits must be able to show that the emission reductions would not have happened anyway, even without the CDM funding: ie they are “additional” to what would have happened. But even IETA concedes that proving ‘additionality’ is “an almost impossible task” and one EU Commission official estimated in Poznan that 40% of CDM projects are not additional to what would have happened without CDM funding.
IETA knows the issue of ‘additionality’ will be an issue in Copenhagen. One of its events is called “Sustainability instead of additionality?” where it concedes that “During the negotiations, many Parties highlighted the fact that the CDM to date is being perceived to have contributed little to sustainable development.”
Although the CDM has failed to reduce global emissions, IETA still claims it has been a success. Its lobbying documents argue that the CDM “has demonstrated that market-based mechanisms spark new, keen interest in clean development activities in countries whose emissions must be addressed if the international community is to meet its climate change objectives. The invaluable momentum that the CDM has created must be preserved and built upon.”
IETA goes further and argues that what is needed now is “a new CDM with more flexible mechanisms”, including an expansion and broader standards for project approval, including sector-specific standards, allowing different rules for polluting industries – creating the potential for those industries to escape tough standards.
High level access to decision-makers
IETA secures valuable access to decision-makers through its staff and members. Its President is Henry Derwent, a former Director for International Climate Change in the UK government. It also secures access through its members, such as Ecosecurities, a leading emissions trading company recently taken over by JP Morgan.
Ecosecurities develops CDM projects, sells carbon credits and provides consultancy services to business as well as the European Commission and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ecosecurities has set up a body called the Project Developers’ Forum to lobby for more CDM projects to be approved. In Poznan, Ecosecurities had 16 lobbyists, 15 of whom were operating under the umbrella of business associations, including the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Carbon Markets and Investors Association, and as IETA lobbyists.
Monsanto and the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)
Lobbying for RoundupReady (RR) soy to be considered a “climate-friendly” crop that is eligible for carbon credits and subsidies under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); and for pushing for meaningless ‘responsible’ label for RoundupReady soy, which could be used to certify ‘sustainable’ agrofuels.
Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company, which has controversially been promoting genetically modified (GM) crops for over a decade. According to Monsanto, GM crops are not just the solution to world hunger, they can also help tackle climate change.
Biotech companies are pushing for public subsidies for their “climate-friendly” crops. They also want to profit from the international carbon trade by pushing for these “climate-friendly” crops to be eligible for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The RoundTable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) of which Monsanto is a member, is helping to promote the company’s cause by allowing GM soy to be labeled as “responsible”. This may mean that RTRS certified GM soy will in the near future be considered as a “sustainable” source of agrofuel; or be eligible for carbon credits through CDM projects.
Monsanto claims its RoundupReady crops help tackle climate change because they can be grown without plowing the soil, known as ‘no tillage’ or ‘conservation tillage’ agriculture. Plowing soil releases carbon dioxide (CO2). Instead RoundupReady crops rely on large quantities of herbicides to control weeds. Monsanto argues that this means it should be eligible for carbon credits because it is locking CO2 in the soil.
But RoundupReady soy, which is grown on over 40 million hectares across South America, has severe social and environmental impacts, with increased pesticide use leading to damage to human health and the environment. These vast monocultures of soy have replaced valuable forest – resulting in huge CO2 emissions – and have displaced rural and indigenous communities.
Monsanto also co-founded the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, a lobby group set up to counter criticisms that agrofuels take land from food production, pushing up the price of food.
A History of Exerting Influence
Monsanto’s climate lobbying can be traced back to 1998 when the company was active at the UN Climate Talks, claiming the US could meet up to 30% of its CO2 emission reduction targets by using ‘no till’ agriculture. Monsanto was also one of a number of companies pushing the idea of ‘carbon sinks’, which allow land and trees to be used to store carbon.
Robert B. Horsch, Monsanto's President for Sustainable Development, explained that “Monsanto and others worked hard and successfully at the meeting to persuade delegates to look into agricultural carbon 'sinks' as a way to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.”
Monsanto was also active inside the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the official scientific body on climate change. Monsanto representative Peter Hill contributed to an IPCC Special report on land use, land use change and forestry in May 1999.
The lobbying effort appears to have paid off: at the following UN Climate talks the issue of soil sinks became a major bargaining chip for the US, which wanted 25 million tons of US farm soils to be recognized as a ‘carbon sink’. The US repeatedly threatened not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol unless sinks were included.
Monsanto’s Lobby Today
The biotech industry remains close to the US government and President Obama has appointed several former Monsanto chiefs and allies to high positions. Monsanto continues to actively lobby in the US. It has also formed alliances with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to promote ‘Conservation Tillage’ as a climate solution.
Monsanto has lobbied the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) body, UNFCCC working groups and the FAO to get carbon credits and CDM funding for ‘no-till’ practices. A CDM methodology was approved in October 2009 for biodiesel production from crops grown for fuel on marginal lands, allowing agrofuel producers to directly benefit from carbon credits for the first time.
A key soy producer, Monsanto had actively lobbied the CDM office in Argentina for ‘no till’ RoundupReady soy production to be included under the CDM. The head of the Argentine office, Hernan Carlino, became a member of the CDM Executive Board in 2007 and following his appointment, the issue of carbon credits for ‘no till’ agriculture were discussed at the UN COP13 climate talks . Monsanto has so far not managed to have ‘no till’ approved, but Monsanto soy will be eligible for credits, provided it is grown on existing plantations and not on newly cleared land.
Monsanto has also been pushing for carbon credits from ‘no till’ in the US Climate Bill. The US position on this will be key at the Copenhagen climate talks. During the first quarter of 2009, Monsanto reportedly spent $2,094,000 on lobbying activities in the US, including on the Climate Bill proposal. In the second quarter of 2009, the company spent $2,080,000. Six Monsanto lobbyists have been declared by the company to be working on the Climate Bill.
Monsanto has also contributed to the development of an “agriculture soil carbon standard”, supporting other lobby groups in developing their strategy, One Congressional Briefing report noted that “With the help of Monsanto, Novecta, a consulting and lobbying arm of the Iowa and Illinois Corn Growers Associations, has called on Congress this spring to grant farmers valuable offsets for shifting to ‘no-till’ farming – a shift that will spur sales of Roundup and RoundupReady seeds. Thanks to the Peterson-Pelosi deal, this scheme could become law”.
Monsanto employs lobbyists Ogilvy Government Relations in Washington, which is listed by Public Integrity as one of the main lobby consultancies battling climate legislation. It also works as part of the US biotech industry lobby group, BIO, which also lobbied the Senate for free pollution permits.
The company is an active member of BIO. A recent leaked document revealed the US biotech industry lobbying strategy for Copenhagen, which includes working closely with the US government, including their Special Climate Envoy, Todd Stern: “Although the prospects for a new treaty in December are highly questionable, BIO and its members have significant interests in engaging over the next several months to ensure any treaty text does not harm the biotechnology industry, and potentially supports innovation,” the leaked document said.
Lobbying through NGOs
Monsanto’s inclusion in the Roundtable on Responsible Soy was a major breakthrough for the company, providing it with an opportunity to claim green credentials for GM soy.
Some industry critics argue the label is meaningless. The criteria allow soy expansion and deforestation to continue, and give a ‘responsible’ label to herbicide resistant crops, even though evidence is growing that the production of RoundupReady soy (in combination with non-till practices) leads to more, not less pesticide use. There is no consensus from civil society in producer countries that these criteria will lead to a ‘responsible’ product.
The RTRS, which includes WWF, has continuously promoted the option of certifying ‘sustainable’ soy biodiesel. WWF is now openly calling for carbon credits for RTRS-certified RoundupReady soy. The leaked BIO lobby document mentions that the European biotech lobby association, EuropaBio, is planning to organize a debate in Copenhagen “moderated by WWF”.
Royal Dutch Shell
Actively investing in energy-intensive tar sands; pushing unproven Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS) technology as a solution to climate change; undermining initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions.
In 2009 Shell became the world’s largest company. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant is also the world’s most carbon intensive oil company: A recent survey by environmental NGOs found that the average carbon intensity of each barrel of oil and gas Shell produces is set to rise dramatically, increasing by 85 percent. Shell’s rapid re-carbonization strategy is in direct contrast to governments who are trying to decarbonizes their economies, reduce carbon emissions and encourage renewable sources of fuel.
Shell has pulled out of renewable energy a decade after setting up a special unit to promote wind and solar – and now its business strategy is based on developing controversial biofuels and producing oil from the highly polluting tar sands. Shell is leading the development of Canada’s energy-intensive tar sands, trying to argue it can be exploited in an environmentally-sensitive way.
Knowing it is becoming more vulnerable to a carbon constrained world, Shell has been leading industry lobby efforts in Washington, Brussels and the United Nations Framework on Climate Change to weaken and neuter legislation to tackle climate change. A key part of Shell’s lobbying strategy for Copenhagen is to persuade politicians that tar sands are a strategic part of the energy mix and that carbon emissions can be adequately mitigated through the as yet unproven Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.
Shell, which holds key CCS patents, has been at the forefront of the business lobby pushing CCS as a solution to climate change, both in Europe and Canada. In October 2008, it was awarded over $800,000 from the Alberta and Canadian governments for a CCS project. This is despite a joint Canada and Alberta task force on CCS concluding, in 2008, that only a small percentage of CO2 released in mining oil sands and producing fuel can be captured.
At the EU Shell has been arguing that the climate change fight will be “wasted” without CCS and therefore the EU should pour public money into making the technology viable. The company is extremely influential in the leading EU lobby organization - the European Technology Platform of Zero Emission Fossil Fuels Power Plants (ZEP) - which is “driving CCS forward in Europe.” The head of ZEP’s advisory panel is Dr. Sweeny from Shell. ZEP’s mandate is to “enable CCS as a key technology for combating climate change” and to “make CCS technology commercially viable by 2020 via an EU-backed demonstration program.”
Shell has also been heavily lobbying the EU Parliament, especially through Chris Davies MEP, who is leading in Parliament on CCS. Davies argues that “Shell’s strategic thinking and vigorous advocacy has played a crucial role in making the development of CCS technology a priority within the EU strategy to reduce global warming emissions”.
Chris Davies has conceded that he incorporated Shell’s ideas. David Hone, Shell’s climate change adviser, “played an important role in giving substance to the idea of using carbon allowances as a means of supporting CCS capital investment”, said Davies. In June 2009, the Brussels-based lobby organization Eurelectric, which represents Europe’s biggest electricity generators, was so pleased with Davies’ successful promotion of the industry’s position on CCS in the European Parliament that they gave him a special award.
Chair of the Eurelectric Award panel Paul Bulteel told the audience that Davies understood that CCS “is the answer to making coal-based power compatible with climate change objectives”.
Lobbying to weaken proposed climate laws
In the US, Shell has spent $2.4 million lobbying politicians so far in 2009. During this time, it has lobbied on the latest attempt by US law makers to tackle climate change, the American Clean Energy Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill.
Shell is a leading member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and has used its position within that partnership to weaken climate legislation under discussion in Congress. The company was instrumental in removing the only provisions in the Bill that would have stopped the proposed increases in US imports of tar sands.
Meanwhile in Brussels, Shell replied to the European Commission’s proposal to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 with a vigorous lobbying campaign. Through two industry lobby organizations – the European Petroleum Industry Association (EUROPIA) and CONCAWE, the oil industry research association – Shell has been extremely active in trying to weaken down the proposed legislation, succeeding in influencing the rules on how the 20% target can be met.
The Commission’s Fuel Quality Directive proposed that producers reduce emissions from their fuels by 10% by 2020 compared with 2010 levels. The main target of the Directive was the oil industry. Although this 10% reduction target was seen as being achievable, EUROPIA stated that it “should be withdrawn from the Directive proposal”.
EUROPIA and CONCAWE argued the oil industry could do nothing to reduce the carbon intensity of mineral oil-based fuels, and that the solution was in biofuels. When the Commission proposed sustainability criteria for biofuels, EUROPIA tried to get them removed too.
Another element of the EU’s 2007 “Climate action and renewable energy package” was reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. These include a plan to charge refineries for 20% of their emission permits from 2013, rising to 100% by 2020. Once again Shell and other oil companies lobbied against the proposals and managed to get refineries exempted up to 2013.
Despite undermining the European Commission’s climate proposals, Shell has managed to gain assistance from the Commission to help greenwash its operations. Earlier this year, Shell lobbied the President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso to lend his “Patronage” to the Shell Eco-Marathon held near Berlin in May. After Barroso accepted the invitation, documents released under Freedom of Information legislation, show that Shell suggested that Barroso “could use the EU Flag to start the Grand Parade”. Shell wanted the EU flag to give an official seal of approval to its climate greenwashing campaign.
Using its national and international lobbying campaign to promote Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a clean solution to the dirty business of producing liquid fuels from coal and gas.
Sasol is a South African company involved in mining, energy, chemicals and synthetic fuels (synfuels). It produces petrol from coal – known as coal to liquids (CTL), which is a dirty business that produces twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the standard refining of petrol from crude oil.
Given that this is Sasol’s core business, it is not surprising that the company is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) on the African continent – Sasol’s Secunda plant in South Africa is the world’s single biggest emitter of CO2. The company knows that climate change could threaten its future and concedes in official documents that international efforts to counter climate change could have a “material adverse effect” on its business and “financial condition”.
In recent years, Sasol has been on a major public relations and lobbying drive to sell CTL technology to the world, using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as the panacea for this dirty product. As Time magazine reported last year: “Imagine the public relations nightmare facing an oil company that uses technology responsible for powering Nazi Germany, that propped up apartheid for decades and that operates a plant with the dubious distinction of being the world's biggest single-point source of carbon dioxide.”
Despite its dirty product, the company’s CEO, Pat Davies told the magazine “We are an innovative company. We can be part of this solution too.”
In order to convince politicians, the public and regulators that Sasol is part of the “solution”, it has embarked on an intensive domestic and international lobbying campaign. Sasol’s lobbying strategy is multi-pronged: it aims to promote the acceptability and use of CTL technology around the world, and create a wider market for its activities. While at the same time it promotes CCS technology as a potential way of reducing emissions from its activities.
At home, the once state-owned company enjoys a close relationship with the government.
It has played an influential role in the development of South Africa’s Long Term Mitigation Scenario, the most recent key government document which sets out plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa has not ruled out future new plants for converting coal to liquid, despite the high levels of emissions generated. Sasol has also promoted CCS through its involvement in policy talks.
Active on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
As Sasol’s 2008 Sustainable Development Report says: “To advance our appreciation of the causes, Sasol plays a role on the international stage via the UN’s Global Compact and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In support of CCS solutions, we are on the South African delegation to the multinational Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.”
Sasol has also succeeded in having one of its scientists – Fred Goede - sit on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the scientific body responsible for identifying the level and nature of the risk posed by climate change. Goede is not only a member of the IPCC, he also wrote a recent IPCC report on CCS – the technology promoted by Sasol.
But as WWF South Africa has pointed out, even if technological advances allow Sasol to reduce the emissions generated by producing synfuels, CCS will not reduce the level of emissions of the vehicles running on the resulting synfuels. Moreover at the present time, CCS remains an unproven commercial technology.
Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum - Burying the problem internationally
Sasol is an active player in the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), an organization through which it is successfully lobbying for CCS technologies.
In October 2009, the Forum, which comprises 23 governments as well as the European Commission, held its latest meeting in London to promote CCS technology “in an effort to stay ahead of the December climate summit in Copenhagen”.
At the conference, Christine Ramon, the chief financial officer of Sasol was on a panel discussion on “the priority and urgency of actions required for near-term deployment of CCS”. This would then be formulated as recommendations to be delivered to the Ministers attending the Forum.
Sasol got what they wanted. At the end of the Forum, the participating Energy and Environment Ministers from the member nations “endorsed CCS technologies as a key component of international plans to combat climate change.”
$100,000s spent lobbying Washington
Meanwhile in the US, Sasol is keen to expand its business and has been an active player in the Coals to Liquids coalition, lobbying Congress on bills promoting “alternative fuels” and securing support from former President George Bush and Senator Barack Obama prior to his election as President.
A 2008 report by GroundWork South Africa summarized the company’s lobbying effort, saying that Sasol “paid the Livingston Group $320,000 last year to lobby Congress to support building CTL plants in the United States. With congressional members and the White House promising to promote alternative fuels, a number of other alternative-fuel companies have joined Sasol in hiring firms to lobby for tax breaks and other incentives to ease their entrance into the market dominated by oil companies.”
In 2009, Sasol paid the lobbying consultancy, the Livingston Group a further $220,000 for lobbying purposes. Through the Livingston Group, Sasol has also sought support from the US military for coal to liquids fuel. With concerns about energy security high on the US agenda, and easy access to large supplies of coal, Sasol has pushed the case for using coal-to-liquid technology to ensure supplies of transport fuel.
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