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Swedish companies 'sabotaging' climate talks

”Swedish companies are hiding behind umbrella organisations which are trying to sabotage the climate talks in Copenhagen”, says Olivier Hoedeman at the Corporate Europe Observatory, one of the organizations behind the Angry Mermaid Award.

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The Angry Mermaid Award, named after the famous sculpture in the harbor of Copenhagen, has been set up by several European non-governmental organization. Their goal is to recognise what they believe is an attempt to undermine a strong global agreement on climate change during the UN-negotiations in the Danish capital later in december. The organizations state that corporate lobbyists and business groups, which Swedish companies are a part of, have a perverse role in these discussions and that they are blocking positive measures and in some cases even presenting false solutions.

“All the candidates for the Angry Mermaid Award have lobbied to protect their own profits and prevent effective action to tackle climate change. As world leaders struggle to reach agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the influence of major polluters and lobbyists needs to be exposed, says Paul de Clerk from Friends of the Earth International.

Before the Kyoto negotiations the oil industry was in focus but the companies and organisations that are on the short list for the Angry Mermaid Award come from a diverse range of sectors, such as oil, coal, aviation and chemicals industry.

One of them is the European Chemical Industry Council, CEFIC, that is being accused of lobbying for free permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, undermining the EU's goal to cut carbon emissions. The lobbying has been done on behalf of the Swedish Plastics and Chemicals Federation.

“There is no such thing as free emission permits. Since you get less and less permits each year the industry has to become more efficient and that costs money. If you don't work with efficiency you'll need to buy more permits. Either way you need to pay”, says Magnus Huss, CEO of the Swedish Plastics and Chemicals Federation, which has over 200 Swedish member companies, among them the mining company Boliden and the pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca.

However, they don't believe that the critique against CEFIC will have any effect on their companies.

“We don't have our own representative in CEFIC, it's taken are of by the Plastic and Chemicals Federation. And any how, emission permits is not a big issue for us”, says Ann-Leena Mikiver, press officer at Astra Zeneca.

“Companies are often hiding behind umbrella organisations, trying to influence the decision makers. But the Swedish companies should be held responsible as members of CEFIC”, says Olivier Hoedeman, researcher at the Corporate Europe Observatory.

IATA, International Air Transport Association, is another organisation nominated for the award for promoting weak voluntary efforts to cut emissions. Among IATA's members you find Scandinavian SAS, where CEO Mats Jansson previously has stated that he and the company supports IATA's ambitous goal of improving fuel efficiency by 1,5 percent per year until 2020. However, according to Olivier Hoedeman, SAS and the other airline companies have done little to really fight climate change. 

“Most companies don't do more than green wash. The airline industry has invested heavily in lobbying and advertisement in order to give the impression that they already are doing what's necessary. That's not true and it is a big problem”, he says.

Although the companies hide behind their representatives and a lot of the lobbying being done without the general public being aware of it, the influence from the companies can cause a back fire, according to Hoedeman. He points out that there's been some cases in the US where manipulating lobbyism has been made public and discussed in the press which made several companies distant themselves from the organisations.  

“I think it would be  a too big step for the Swedish companies to actually leave the organisations but they should really start questioning more what the lobbyist are doing”, he says.   

Olivier Hoedeman's personal favorite for winning the award is one of the European actors. He expects that at least 20-30,000 people are going to vote on the website specially created for this purpose. The voting starts today and will close on the 13th of december. Two days later, the winner of Angry Mermaid Award will be announced at a cermony in Copenhagen.    

Possible winners:

• American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity - for pushing “clean” coal and for employing a lobby firm which ran a fraudulent letter writing campaign, sending fake letters to the US Congress on the US climate bill.

• American Petroleum Industry (API) - for spending millions of dollars on lobbying against US climate legislation, including setting up an “astroturf” campaign to create the illusion of strong grassroots opposition.

• European Chemical Lobby (Cefic) - for lobbying for free permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, undermining the EU’s main measure to cut carbon emissions. Over 200 Swedish companies are members via the Swedish Plastics and Chemicals Federation.

• International Air Transport Association (IATA) – for promoting weak voluntary efforts to cut emissions from aviation in an attempt to pre-empt international legislation. Swedish SAS is a member.

• International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) - for promoting emissions trading and carbon offsetting as the solution to climate change, despite the lack of evidence of real emissions cuts.

• Monsanto – a biotech giant, for lobbying for carbon credits for genetically modified crops and promoting GM crops as a solution to climate change.

• Sasol - for lobbying for carbon capture and storage as a way to clean up synfuel manufacture - where coal is converted to petrol using vast amounts of energy and generating huge levels of carbon emissions.

• Shell - for lobbying for financial and political support for carbon capture and storage while investing massively in environmentally destructive oil extraction from the Canadian tar sands.

Facts about the award: Angry Mermaid Award was sup by Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth International, Focus on the Global South, Attac Denmark and Spinwatch. The name of the award derives from Copenhagen's famous mermaid in Langelinje in the city's harbor, who in this case, is angry with the destruction in the tracks of climate change.  

Andreas Liljeheden is a freelance journalist based in Brussels.




Last Updated (Tuesday, 17 November 2009 12:03)


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