19th Oct 2017

EU business guilty of environmental doublespeak, say NGOs

A number of Europe's largest businesses are slowing the pace of environmental reform in the US, while simultaneously warning the EU not to push ahead with greater greenhouse gas emission cuts until other developed regions do likewise, a new report has claimed.

The study published on Monday (25 October) by the Climate Action Network Europe, a collection of 130 European environmental and development NGOs, said eight major European firms had contributed $240,200 to US senators who deny climate change or have blocked recent efforts to pass a landmark cap-and-trade bill.

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"[This] is almost 80 percent of their total spendings in the 2010 senate race," the report said of the money received by the senators. Energy firms dominate the list made up of: Lafarge, GDF-Suez, E.On, BP, BASF, Bayer, Solvay and Arcelor-Mittal.

Over the summer US senators ditched legislative efforts to impose a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, despite earlier approval by the lower House of Representatives. Senate elections are scheduled for next month.

"We conclude that the support of European companies is not only targeted at deniers and blockers but that the financial streams are also very strategic," said the study's authors.

"This behind the scenes behaviour exposes a major hypocrisy in those European headquarter based companies," they added, pointing to recent statements by EU business umbrella groups such as Business Europe. Many companies on the list are members of Business Europe, via their national business federations.

"In the absence of an international deal securing equally strong action from other economies, any further increase of the EU's unilateral 20 percent emission reduction target would be premature and even counterproductive," the umbrella group said earlier this month, ahead of a meeting of EU environment ministers.

It declined to comment on Monday's report.

Others have pointed to conflicting actions by large multinational companies such as Shell and Solvay on different sides of the Atlantic. "They subtly lobby through Business Europe against a unilateral EU cut of 30 percent, while at the same time speaking out against tougher environmental curbs in the US," said Brook Riley, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

Cracks within business opposition appeared earlier this month however, when a group of firms including Google, Vodafone and BSkyB signed a petition, calling on the EU to increase its emissions target cut to 30 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

EU environment ministers are set to return to the issue early next year after failing to reach an agreement this month.

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