Investigative Reporters Track Carbon Lobby Attacks on Copenhagen Meeting
Climate Change Talks Spark Global Backlash by Business, Industry
Eight-Country Investigation Reveals Forces Moving to Undermine Copenhagen
Washington, D.C. — Global attempts to craft a pivotal new climate treaty in Copenhagen this December are being stymied by a far-reaching, multinational backlash led by fossil fuel industries and other heavy carbon emitters, according to The Global Climate Change Lobby, a new project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Employing thousands of lobbyists, millions in political contributions, and widespread fear tactics, entrenched interests worldwide are thwarting the steps that scientists say are needed to stave off a looming environmental calamity, the investigation found.
Beginning November 5, the ICIJ series will be released on the web and in partner media outlets in the weeks leading into the December 7, 2009 global summit in Copenhagen. The Global Climate Change Lobby will roll out investigative stories from around the world, as well as blogs, “tweets” (@climatelobby), and interactive graphics. This series by ICIJ, an arm of the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity,, builds upon the Center’s groundbreaking Climate Change Lobby reports, which examined how special interests have shaped the climate bill debate in Washington, D.C.
The Global Climate Change Lobby focuses on those economies expected to play a key role in the talks leading up to a treaty: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, and the United States. Among the project’s findings:
Both developed and developing countries are under heavy pressure by fossil fuel industries and other carbon-intensive businesses to slow progress on negotiations and ease government commitments. The clash cannot simply be framed as one between richer and poorer nations.
China’s moves to hasten development of renewable energy, Brazil’s pledges to curb Amazon deforestation, and other climate steps in the developing world have prompted a strong pushback from domestic in-country interests determined to maintain the status quo.
Instead of a broad frontal assault on the climate science that marked the pre-Kyoto battles, lobbyists seeking to dilute the Copenhagen treaty have changed strategy, acknowledging there is a problem while focusing on slowing and weakening national commitments.
The intensity of the lobbying can be seen most clearly in developed countries, where official registers reveal that thousands of industry representatives have attempted to influence climate legislation. In the United States, there are now about 2,810 climate lobbyists — five lobbyists for every member of Congress — a 400 percent jump from six years earlier. And in Australia, Canada, and the European Union, hundreds more lobbyists are at work attempting to block or water down strict limits on carbon emissions.
Powerful corporations are fielding multinational efforts to influence the debate, such as Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, in Australia and the United States; and oil giant Exxon Mobil in Canada, the European Union, and United States. Although largely operating at a national level, opponents of a strong climate change treaty are employing similar fear tactics worldwide, including threats of massive blackouts and job losses.
The voices of scores of business advocates for stronger climate change policy, including alternative energy companies and would-be players in the carbon market, can barely be heard above the clamor of the older, well-capitalized, and deeply entrenched industries that have been lobbying on climate change for more than 20 years.
As a result of the forces arrayed against stricter emissions limits, no developed nation has made a firm pledge for the kind of emissions cut scientists say will be needed within the next decade to stave off catastrophic climate change.
“The ICIJ investigative team is uniquely positioned to show how powerful forces around the world are working to influence the treaty negotiations,” observes David E. Kaplan, director of ICIJ. “At a time when serious journalism is under siege worldwide, when investigative teams are being disbanded and foreign bureaus closed, ICIJ is one of the few media organizations able to offer in-depth, global reporting on an issue as critical as the fight over climate change. Using state-of-the-art technology, computer-assisted reporting, and dogged on-the-ground journalism, ICIJ reveals in country after country the interests attempting to weaken the most important environmental treaty of our time.”