Aussie companies and trade associations named as climate obstructors

Almost half of the world’s top 100 companies have actively fought against policies to tackle climate change, and nearly all are members of trade association engaging in the same behaviour, a new organisation set up to map corporate influence on climate policy has found.

InfluenceMap found that 45 per cent of the 100 largest global industrial companies – including Australian BHP – had been engaging in climate change policy obstruction, while 95 per cent belonged to trade associations – including the Business Council of Australia – that had engaged in similar tactics.

While there is an obvious correlation between the carbon exposure of companies and their responses to climate legislation, the organisation said a key finding was “a disturbing lack of transparency” around corporate relationships with trade associations. It said there were few companies willing to challenge trade associations they were part of, despite clear misalignment between the companies’ climate positions and the actions of the associations representing them.

The research methodology was developed with the Union of Concerned Scientists to map corporate influence on climate policy around the world.

“More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies,” lead analyst at Union of Concerned Scientists Gretchen Goldman said.

“Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change. It is unacceptable that companies can obstruct climate action in this way without any accountability.”

In Australia BHP Billiton was given a ranking of D, on a scale that ranged from A to F.

“BHP Billiton appears to have low level, but negative, engagement with climate regulation,” its InfluenceMap report said.

“Both the company and their CEO are reported to have supported repeal of the Australian carbon tax.”

The Business Council of Australia fared worse, gaining an E+ ranking.

“The Business Council of Australia appears to be opposing climate change related regulations and policies,” the report said. “Of particular note is their strong opposition to the Australian carbon tax, supporting the tax’s repeal, which they were reportedly strongly involved in achieving in 2014.”

The news came as a collective of Australian businesses – including BHP Billiton, though also Mirvac, Westpac, Wesfarmers and AGL – wrote an open letter showing support of a government commitment to limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

InfluenceMap executive director Dylan Tanner said that mainstream fund managers were starting to include climate-lobbying criteria to their investment decisions, citing the huge $850 billion Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which in April announced new standards allowing it to exclude companies responsible for “unacceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions, criteria that are likely to include obstructive influence over climate policy”.

CDP executive chairman Paul Dickinson welcomed the formation of InfluenceMap, saying it would expose an “unacceptable use of corporate resources”.

“There is a lack of detailed analysis available in this area and sadly great companies sometimes do bad things by lobbying against government action to avoid dangerous climate change,” he said.

Asset Owners Disclosure Project Julian Poulter called on investors to disclose the engagement actions and resolutions they would now implement to “put an urgent stop to this destructive behaviour”.

This story was republished with permission from The Fifth Estate.

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