French business group top of EU ‘anti-climate’ lobby list

Total is the largest oil company in Europe. [M DOGAN/Shutterstock]

Nearly half of the world’s 200 biggest companies actively fight regulation to protect the climate, a study has revealed. French business group MEDEF and oil company Total are among the worst offenders. EurAtiv France reports

France’s largest employer federation, the Movement of French Enterprises (MEDEF), came out near the bottom of the class. That is the conclusion of the NGO InfluenceMap, which published its rankings of lobby groups and companies based on their efforts to implement or obstruct climate change mitigation programmes.

Ahead of this December’s COP 21 climate conference, this ranking could prove embarrassing for France, which had hoped to be at the forefront of international efforts to reach a binding global agreement on reducing CO2 emissions.

On a scale of ‘A’ to ‘F’, MEDEF received an ‘E-‘, the worst mark of any European lobby group. French oil giant Total was among the lowest ranked companies with a mark of ‘E+’, joined by lobby group BusinessEurope (E) and oil company BP (E-).

According to InfluenceMap, Total “appears often to exhibit misalignment within its messages”. The NGO pointed out that Europe’s largest oil company had signed a call to politicians demanding ambitious action on climate change, while continuing its campaign against the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Total publically supports reforms to the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but has systematically lobbied the Commission to reduce its scope.

Consulted by the European Commission this year on ETS reform, Total proposed to reintroduce the carbon quotas already removed from the system, which would lead to increased CO2 emissions in the EU. The company said that the risk of carbon leakage and loss of competitiveness made the mechanism “less suitable for industry than for energy”.

Total’s membership of Europe’s two lowest ranked lobby groups, the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) and MEDEF, is another black mark against its name.

Total did not respond to EURACTIV’s request for comment.

InfluenceMap explains MEDEF’s poor ranking by the group’s support for shale gas exploitation, its advocacy of weak CO2 reduction targets for 2030, and the fact that it “appears to have opposed and successfully blocked a law on the energy transition in France in 2013”.

“Ridiculous” rankings

MEDEF reacted strongly, calling the NGO’s rankings “ridiculous”. The lobby group told EURACTIV that it supports “a progressive, planned and concerted effort to end subsidies for all mature forms of energy”.

But InfluenceMap also exposed MEDEF’s inconsistency on the question of carbon pricing: the lobby group had opposed a carbon tax in France, before supporting similar plans on a European level.

The employers’ federation said “the creation of a carbon tax can only be carried out at the European level, it must be accompanied by an in-depth reform of compulsory levies, by exemptions for industrial companies and installations already subject to the quota exchange mechanism, and by a compensation mechanism for all businesses”.

Investors have already criticised the murky role of industrial lobbies in the climate change debate. While certain companies are engaged in serious action against climate change, the lobby groups they subscribe to often campaign to undermine or altogether demolish environmental legislation.

>>Read: Investors demand energy giants quit ‘anti-climate’ EU lobby groups

Americans the worst of a bad bunch

Energy companies score very poorly, and oil companies worst of all. BP’s efforts to fight both energy efficiency measures and strict legislation on CO2 emissions make it Europe’s lowest ranked company overall (E-), closely followed by chemical company BASF. But it is the American lobbies that have cleaned up the worst marks for environmental performance.

Google may be the top performer in all categories, but North America was also the only area to be awarded several ‘F’ grades.

The worst mark went to Koch Industries, an energy conglomerate infamous for financing climate-sceptic research. Koch Industries has also been very active in bankrolling politicians to fight the projects of the United States’ Environment Protection Administration (EPA).

Perhaps more surprisingly, the consumer staples group Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Fairly liquid, was also given an E- for climate action. The group has also campaigned against EPA legislation and has actively opposed European climate legislation.

>> Read: Business and the struggle between climate and profit

Global leaders will met in Paris this December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which aims to make legally binding a target to keep global warming below two degrees.

Ahead of the meeting investors are upping pressure on their portfolio companies, which include major energy and mining giants, to improve their performance on climate change.

Recent shareholders resolutions at BP and Shell called on the energy companies to disclose the business risks of climate change.

Now one campaign group of institutional investors has called on firms to quite EU lobby groups that fight against pro-climate policies. 



Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster

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