The European Union is being influenced by big polluters and corporate interests in a way that is “threatening” the realisation of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report.
Published days before countries head to Bonn for the next round of international climate talks, it claims that big polluters have infiltrated the negotiations process and are pushing for “false solutions” and lobbying against tougher regulations.
Despite media focus on the role of the US since Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the report — co-authored by NGOs Corporate Accountability and Corporate Europe Observatory — suggests that the EU is “perhaps worse” than America in “undermining climate policy”, despite often being hailed as “a climate hero”.
Last month, the EU Parliament agreed to push to curb the access of fossil fuel lobbyists at the international climate negotiations. But Europe’s environment ministers later omitted any mention of stopping vested interests participating in negotiations in a formal statement outlining its priorities for the talks – reducing the chance of the progress on curbing conflicts of interest in Bonn.
A particular point of conflict is the mechanism for richer, more polluting countries, to transfer resources to poorer nations: the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
UK-based HSBC is one of three European banks including Germany’s Deutsche Bank and the French Crédit Agricole which has a record of financing fossil fuel projects and is accredited by the GCF to channel and receive funds, and propose projects for funding.
HSBC is one of five transnational banks and institutions that manages nearly 75 per cent of the GCF’s funds.
Earlier this year, the Green Party sent a letter to HSBC urging the bank to divest from the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in which it had pumped $229.9 million by the end of 2016, according to Bloomberg data analysed by DeSmog UK.
Last year, a report also found HSBC had given a total of £36bn to finance fossil fuel projects around the world between 2013 and 2015. It was also revealed that HSBC is one of three banks guarantying “green” bonds which are used as loans by the Polish Government under a scheme analysts fear could be used to bolster the coal industry.
According to the report, this means that “what little climate finance exists” is exposed “to the risk of corporate seizure”.
The report also reveals that managers from another UK-based company, oil major Shell, has previously been a member of the board of the UN‘s Climate Technology Network, which advises on how to develop and transfer green technology to the developing world. Currently, the board includes a member from the World Coal Association.
And Brexit makes it less likely that the UK will intervene to stop corporate capture of the talks, Green party MEP Keith Taylor told DeSmog UK.
If leaders like Theresa May “won’t confront the dirty lobbyists at home”, they will not use their influence in the council to restrict big polluters’ access to global climate negotiations, he said.
“It’s this fact that makes Brexit so concerning. Not only are so many of the Ministers and MPs pushing so hard for an extreme Brexit so inexorably linked to a shady web of dirty lobbyists and climate denialists they have explicitly stated their desire to see leaving the EU as an opportunity to strip away what few safeguards and regulations we do have.
“From fast-tracking fracking to aviation expansion, the corporate influence on the Conservative government’s climate-destructive policymaking is already clear. There is little hope Brexit will see the influence wane — and a very real probability we will see it intensify.”
The cosy relationship between the fossil fuel industry and the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, goes all the way up to include the commissioner for climate and energy Miguel Arias Cañete, the report shows.
Prior to his role as commissioner, Cañete was the president of two oil companies. Although Cañete sold his shares in Petrolifera Ducar SL and Petrologis Canaris SL, his family retains strong ties with the two companies, according to reports from Friends of the Earth Europe and Corporate Europe.
Co-author of the report, Pascoe Sabido, from Corporate Europe Observatory, told DeSmog UK that research into Cañete’s relationship with the industry found the most common visitors to his cabinet in Brussels are from the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile under his and the European Commission’s vice president for energy union Maroš Šefčovič’s leadership, the EU is embarking on the development of a continent-wide gas infrastructure programme, which according to the report will lock the EU into 40 to 50 years of fossil fuel dependence.
The Euro-Caspian Mega-Pipeline (ECMP) also known as the “Southern Gas Corridor” is supposed to transport gas from Azerbaijan to Italy but has been mired in human rights abuses and corruption scandals.
According to the report, the project is the result of “the symbiotic relationship between polluters and politicians” with at its heart the EU’s own gas industry lobby group, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG). The group’s stated mission is to forecast future gas demand and then propose infrastructure to meet it.
Sabido added that the project was being presented by the EU as a solution to climate change but that the risk of methane leaks associated with the project were a real danger to the environment.
“While Trump is very honest about why he does not care at all about the Paris Agreement, the EU makes itself look like it is dealing with the problem but it is actually building a new generation of fossil fuel. It is locking itself for 50 years of this gas project in the name of being a climate leader and that is a very dangerous path,” he said.
“The EU’s lack of ambition is due to industry influence,” Sabido added, describing the presence of the fossil fuel industry in Brussels as “amazing”.
“The European Commission has invited the fossil fuel industry to craft our energy policy. The Commission gives a sense of climate action but actually the fossil fuel industry is in charge,” he said.
Main image credit: Shipley 43 via Flcikr CC BY 2.0