Report: Governments are bowing to fossil fuel lobbying in Covid-19 recovery planning

The fossil fuel lobby has been the most active of any sector since March

Conducted by non-profit InfluenceMap, the ‘recovery map’ analysis tracks policy lobbing across Australia, Canada, the US and the EU, to garner whether policymakers are bowing to pressure from high-carbon sectors when developing their Covid-19 recovery packages.

It reveals that the oil and gas sector made 31 policy interventions – the most of any sector – with 64% having been successful either in full or in part. Demands were fairly evenly split between rolling back existing or planned climate legislation and providing financial interventions that favour fossil fuel production over other sectors.

InfluenceMap has been tracking the global fossil fuel lobby for some time now. Last year, its analysis found that the largest five publicly listed oil and gas majors had spent £153m a year lobbying since 2015.

Aside from oil and gas, the recovery map tracks lobbying efforts relating to the automotive, financial, utilities, ICT, materials and aviation sector.

The aviation lobby has been the most successful of these efforts, with five of eight demands met either in full or in part by policymakers. All demands related to securing bailouts with no or minimal environmental conditions.

“The extent to which our research shows lobbyists representing fossil-fuel-related companies have geared up to oppose Paris aligned climate policy amid the Covid-19 crisis is significant,” InfluenceMap analyst Danny Magill said.

“Unless this tactical lobbying is matched by the majority of large corporations messaging for a green recovery, the world risks returning to the status quo on climate or even backsliding.”

On Magill’s latter point, the recovery map reveals that the majority of interventions made by sector-wide or cross-sector business coalition in favour of a ‘green’ recovery have not been made through channels likely to result in policy change. Groups have instead favoured open letters or top-line statements.

Nonetheless, seven interventions were made through proper channels between 1 March and 1 July. But just two have proven partially successful, and none are classed as completely successful.

A mixed picture

The launch of InfluenceMap’s recovery map comes after the Guardian published an exposé revealing that the US federal government has provided more than $3bn of financial aid to the fossil fuel industry since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

President Trump’s administration is believed to have rolled back more than 100 environmental rules since March. Moreover, Republicans have repeatedly rubbished calls for the US to create a Green Deal and to embed it into the nation’s Covid-19 recovery package, as has been the case in the EU.

At the same time, however, several anti-fossil-fuel campaigns have announced milestone successes in recent weeks. 

Work on the Keystone XL pipeline was ordered to remain at a standstill this week after the US Supreme Court decided to uphold a ruling that the project is not aligned with the nation’s green policy. Campaigners have repeatedly argued that the pipeline would the US and Canada into high-carbon dependence, given that it would carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day. Moreover, the pipeline would run through a number of rivers, streams and reservations belonging to Indigenous communities.

Elsewhere, utilities Dominion and Duke Energy cancelled their proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have ferried natural gas between West Virginia and North Carolina, while work on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) was ordered to shut down until the completion of an environmental review. The DAP-related review will last for 13 months, marking the longest period that a US court has shut down a major fossil fuel pipeline for environmental reasons.

Sarah George

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