Business lobby group BusinessEurope claims to support the need to stop man-made climate change yet has effectively undermined EU plans to cut CO2 emissions. Claiming to represent the interest of the European business community to the European institutions, it has lobbied in the interest of the most energy-intensive industries, such as oil, steel and chemicals, blocking effective climate policies at the EU level.
“The real power in Europe isn’t wielded by MEPs or by unelected officials but by male-dominated corporations,” a reporter wrote last year. “Click on the website of BusinessEurope, the umbrella group for major companies, and read a few of their policy papers. Then check the European Commission’s statements on the same subjects; if you can spot any substantial difference, you deserve a higher reward than I can afford to give you.”
BusinessEurope is “the voice of business in Brussels”, and claims to support the EU’s climate ambitions and a shift to an efficient low-carbon economy. Yet it has led industry efforts to block EU ambitions to raise the CO2 reduction target to 30%.
BusinessEurope has worked with sister-organisations, the Alliance for a Competitive European Industry (ACEI) and the Alliance of Energy Intensive Industries to defend the energy-intensive sectors that need to do most to adapt to a 30% cut – such as chemical industry group (CEFIC), iron and steel (Eurofer) and cement (CEMBUREAU).
BusinessEurope’s position contrasts with leading companies such as Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, which support a 30% cut.
It also contradicts the call for stronger emission cuts from the EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, including influential companies such as Philips, Unilever and Tesco.
BusinessEurope lobbying created a lot of hype about the threat of widespread job losses across Europe and ‘carbon leakage’ (the increase in emissions outside a region as a direct result of the policy to cap emissions in the region). Reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the OECD show that industry scaremongering led the EU to water down plans for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said recently that ambitions for the ETS “have been somewhat undermined by competitiveness concerns”.
Companies represented by BusinessEurope have worked to block climate regulation outside of Europe as well. When the EU announced it was considering a 30% target, BusinessEurope said that going beyond 20% “would send the wrong signal”. Companies including Shell, Solvay, Bayer and BASF have tried, under their respective US business associations to oppose climate action in the US. As a result the EU has failed to move to 30%.