Published on 03 October 2018


Climate lobbying : the double standard of European employers' organisations

A memo from Business Europe, the European employers' organisation headed by former Medef president Pierre Gattaz, revealed the nature of climate lobbying in Brussels. Even if the organisation portrays an image in support of the EU's climate ambitions, it explicitly asks its members to avoid any action beyond statements of principle.

A leaked Business Europe memo exposed the Brussels-based employers' organization for its double standards concerning climate.

The memo redacted by Business Europe was originally addressed to a private audience, only for its members. But Euractiv published it with purpose. It bluntly describes the double standard of European employers in the fight against climate change. The document asks its members to maintain a "positive" stance as long as climate commitments remain that of "policy statements" without legislative implications, collective effort from other organisation members or ones that require reforms to the European carbon market. 

The European Union intends to raise its ambitions in December at the COP 24 in Poland. Business Europe is clearly against such measures, highlighting the "usual arguments" for distortion of competition with “lesser” countries or the fact that Europe cannot "compensate" for others. 

Careful opposition 

Among the means proposed to carefully oppose such climate ambitions: delaying the process by asking for more transparency concerning methodologies, the need for new impact studies or highlighting instability risk that could penalize investments.  

The problem with this position is that Business Europe has weight. The organisation brings together some 40 European employers' federations or organisations as well as large companies such as Bayer, BMW, BP, ExxonMobil, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, Shell, Total or Volkswagen. It is considered one of the most powerful lobbies in Brussels with 30 lobbyists and a €4 million annual budget. 

According to the NGO Corporate Europe, Business Europe has already made a name for itself in climate policy for having "lowered the targets for European renewable energy and energy efficiency to benefit emissions trading”. In their "Corporate Lobbying" report (2), published a few days before the Business Europe document was leaked, the NGO deemed Business Europe one of the lowest-rated organisations (E on a scale of A+/F) at the international level, tied with the Medef, the former company of Pierre Gattaz, Business Europe’s current director. 

Subtle but effective lobbying 

According to the NGO InfluenceMap, the Business Europe memo is typical of new practices. "Over the past two decades, corporate opposition to the climate agenda has avoided denying science by using more subtle arguments and lobbyists to build more aggressive lobbying tactics." Nevertheless, the result remains the same: blocking essential climate regulations. 

Overall, work from InfluenceMap shows that 90% of the 200 major global companies are still involved with employer organisations lobbying against climate change, with 30% of them lobbying directly against positive actions. It is important to note, however, that in 2015 the NGO reported this rate to be at 45%. 

Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud

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