World's biggest tech firms 'dedicate just 4% of lobbying efforts to climate change'
Analysis of the lobbying activities of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google's parent firm Alphabet has revealed that they allocated just 4% of their annual lobbying resources to efforts to combat climate change.
InfluenceMap assessed the information that these companies reported regarding federal-level lobbying in the US in the 2019-2020 financial year to reach this figure.
During this 12-month period, Facebook deployed 6% of its lobbying resources to efforts to promote legislation designed to have a positive impact on emissions. The proportions for Microsoft and Amazon were 5%, while Alphabet and Apple allocated just 3% and 2% of their respective resources.
This is despite all of these companies having ambitious in-house targets around climate. Facebook is aiming for a net-zero value chain by 2030, as is Apple. Amazon’s ‘Climate Pledge’ is headlined by a 2040 net-zero commitment and has inspired pledges from several other large corporates in other sectors. Microsoft’s commitment is to carbon negativity. Google, meanwhile, is aiming to directly source 100% renewable electricity by 2030. However, it has faced criticisms for selling data storage and cloud computing tools to oil companies.
InfluenceMap staff have argued that the tech companies should be doing more, given their size in terms of market capitalisation and their reach among policymakers and the general public.
The organisation is also concerned that the impacts of anti-climate lobbying from high-carbon sectors including fossil fuels – which became even more active against the backdrop of Covid-19 – will outweigh the impacts generated by the tech sector. Its analysis of large oil companies in the US found that they collectively deployed 38% of their lobbying resources on climate issues.
"This report shows that despite robust top-line climate commitments from Big Tech and the sector's huge economic footprint, these companies appear not to be strategically deploying their significant influence over government policy in support of much-needed climate policy, "InfluenceMap’s executive director Dylan Tanner said.
"This represents a lost opportunity for corporate leadership on climate policy. Stronger engagement on climate policy from Big Tech and other large corporations could help clear the pathway for policymakers to take stronger action on the climate crisis."
InfluenceMap’s calls to action are being supported by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Facebook's former sustainability director and Google's former clean energy czar Bill Weihl. Weihl now runs Climate Voice – a platform which empowers employees and students to demand that their businesses and universities increase their low-carbon ambitions and accelerate action.
Spotlight on climate lobbying in the US
Under the Trump administration, the US government reportedly provided the fossil fuel sector with $72.35bn of grants, loans and subsidies to support it through the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost all funding was unconditional. In contrast, it has spent $27.7bn to support clean energy since March 2020. More than 90% of this funding was conditional.
Moreover, Trump reportedly rolled back more than 100 environmental laws during his term in office. One of his last acts as president was selling off the rights to drilling tracts in the Arctic – but uptake at auction was low.
Green groups believe that lobbying will have influenced many key decisions in this space.
What climate lobbying will look like under Biden remains to be seen – but it is almost unanimously agreed that his approach to climate is more positive than Trump’s. Within his first few hours of Presidency, he re-committed the US to the Paris Agreement and issued orders to reverse decisions around oil pipelines, methane limits for fossil fuel majors and oil and gas permits.