BMW, Toyota and other major carmakers accused of lobbying against stronger climate policies

Toyota has been named as one of the world's most influential companies blocking Paris-Agreement-aligned climate policies by InfluenceMap, which has also published data revealing how German automakers and trade bodies are advocating for weaker emissions goals.

BMW, Toyota and other major carmakers accused of lobbying against stronger climate policies

Neither Toyota nor BMW signed a new declaration at COP26 pledging to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040

The think tank last week published a report naming the 50 most influential corporates and industry associations obstructing climate policy progress. Toyota was the only carmaker ranked in the top five for this, with only US oil majors ExxonMobil and Chevron faring worse.  Also included in the top five offenders are US-based gas and electric utility Southern Company and energy infrastructure major Sempra.

According to the report, Toyota has been lobbying – alone and through its trade associations – against proposals for stricter laws on phasing out all internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in several of its key markets, including the US. It is understood that the brand does not want to cease producing hybrids, as an early proponent of the technology.

The broader automotive industry, InfluenceMap’s report states, is “highly negative on stringent climate regulation” for its own sector, despite seeming more and more supportive of overarching climate goals. It is ranked as the second-worst industry only to oil. Other carmakers included in the worst 50 are BMW (18th place), Daimler (24th place) and Hyundai (25th place).

InfluenceMap’s director Edward Collins said that while “the corporate playbook for holding back climate policy has come a long way from science denialism”, it is still “every bit as damaging”. The report argues that the emissions impact of policy decisions will be larger than any company’s direct and indirect emissions footprint.

Spotlight on Germany

Following on from this ranking report, InfluenceMap then published a separate analysis of the climate lobbying actions of three German automotive giants – BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen (VW). It also looked at information pertaining to prominent industry bodies the German Association of the Automotive Industry and the Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

Using publicly available information and information obtained through freedom of information (FOI) requests, the think-tank assessed the extent of the organisations’ positive and negative impacts on climate policy in Germany and at the EU level. It also assessed their willingness to disclose.

InfluenceMap states that BMW has actively opposed key policies over the past two years, nationally and at EU level. Daimler, meanwhile, is accused of failing to disclose key climate policy positions or to provide records of policy engagement. Volkswagen is given a slightly better ranking for its direct “mixed but increasingly positive” engagement, but loses marks for continuing to remain a member of trade bodies with active negative climate policy engagement at the German and EU-level, including both associations.

Policies covered by this report relate to EV mandates, vehicle emissions standards and modal shift – the need to help more populations use active and public transport and to decrease their reliance on individual car ownership.

Moreover, Volkswagen, BMW and the German government itself – the world’s third-largest car market – declined to join a new international declaration on ICE vehicles at COP26, which commits signatories to ensure all new vehicle sales are zero-emission by 2040.

InfluenceMap is arguing that the policy position of these German automakers stands in contrast to many of their recent PR campaigns around electric vehicles. It names BMW as the worst offender in this field.

Responding to the reports, a BMW Group spokesperson told edit that the firm is “fully committed to the goal of sustainable mobility” and “believes the future of our company is linked to the future of the planet”.

The spokesperson said: “As president of ACEA, it is natural that [our chairman] Oliver Zipse has met with EU representatives on industry-related regulations, discussing the aligned positions of all ACEA members. These positions are publicly available, for example as part of public consultations of the EU Commission.”

Giving a reason as to why BMW did not sign the declaration at COP26, they added: “To set an end date for producing any internal combustion engines we must see a very significant increase and development of charging infrastructure. The reality is that current provision varies considerably in different markets. For a fully electrified future to be realised, this must rapidly change.”

Beyond direct policy engagement, the spokesperson added, BMW Group is leveraging its societal influence by being a member of initiatives including the Race to Zero and the Business Ambition for 1.5C.

Sarah George


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