Wednesday

4th Aug 2021

Industry lobbied against quick climate action in 'Fit-for 55'

  • Aviation and shipping industry groups were identified as the most against EU attempts to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement goals (Photo: Ted McGrath)

Key industry groups in Europe have been actively lobbying against some of the upcoming proposals under the 'Fit for 55' package, to weaken short-term climate action, a new report published by the think-tank InfluenceMap revealed on Monday (12 July).

The so-called fit-for-55 package, expected to be presented by the European Commission on Wednesday, includes a range of policies, from increasing renewables targets and introducing new CO2 limits for cars and vans, to establishing a carbon border tax to protect EU companies.

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  • The report also warns of 'significant disconnect' between industry lobbying and the science on net-zero emissions (Photo: InfluenceMap)

A survey of 216 industry associations, which gave feedback to the commission on EU climate goals in 2020, revealed only 36 percent of the support the plan to cut emissions by 55-percent by 2030.

The same trend was seen among the 20 most-influential industry associations - except for the power sector, which appeared to have evolved into an advocate of higher climate ambitions.

Under the fit-for-55 package, the most-lobbied files have been the EU Emissions Trading System (EU carbon market) and the proposed carbon border tax.

But the reform of legislation on renewables and energy taxation has also sparked intense lobbying battles - with the power and renewables sectors calling for greater ambition and heavy industry and fossil fuels groups pushing back.

In their lobbying activities, groups representing transport and heavy-industry sectors were particularly resistant to policies being updated or introduced in the fit-for-55 package, despite their support for net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and climate science.

Concretely, representatives in sectors such as automotive (ACEA), cement (CEMBUREAU), chemicals (Cefic), refining (FuelsEurope) and steel (Eurofer) were identified as "powerful blockages" to regulatory proposals of the commission.

Aviation and shipping industry groups - namely, Airlines for Europe and European Community Shipowners' Associations - were in the most disagreement with the EU's attempts to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement goals.

This might be related to the fact that Brussels wants to introduce a gradual minimum tax-rate on aviation fuel, which is currently exempt, plus a specific sectoral emission reduction target for shipping.

'Significant disconnect'

Despite widespread support for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the research finds that opposition to short-term regulatory ambition on climate is often accompanied by claims that immediate action threatens the competitiveness of European business.

This message seems at odds with the commission's pledge to deliver a "modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy" via the Green Deal.

"This disconnect between top-line corporate rhetoric and the lobbying actions of industry groups puts Europe's efforts to align its climate policy agenda with the Paris Agreement's goals at risk," warned InfluenceMap analyst Venetia Roxburgh.

"The reality is that having a long-term climate target does not mean much if there is no clear pathway to make it happen," she added.

The report indicates that this misalignment is already a key concern for investors, but it is likely to also be a concern among the companies (represented by these associations) which ostensibly support the commission's ambition.

This situation "runs the risk of distorting policy development, as it presents policymakers with a position that appears to represent the full membership of an industry association, but only represents a small minority of interests," a recent report of the OEDC says.

Meanwhile, InfluenceMap also warns about the "significant disconnect" between industry lobbying practices and science-based paths to net-zero emissions, established by international bodies.

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have advocated for short-term targets, and the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, to maintain global temperature rises close to 1.5 degrees (compared to 1990).

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