Corporate Conquistadors: The Many Ways Multinationals Both Drive and Profit from Climate Destruction

corporate conquistadorsPublished by: The Democracy Center, Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), December 2014

Research and writing: Philippa de Boissière, Joanna Cabello, Thomas McDonagh, Aldo Orellana López, Jim Shultz, Pascoe Sabido and Rachel Tansey. With contributions from: Sian Cowman

This report, released at COP20, the UN climate talks in Lima, by CEO, the Democracy Center and Transnational Institute, shows how corporations causing social and environmental destruction in the Andes and Amazon are driving climate change, whilst enjoying influential seats at the climate-negotiating table.

Read the report

Extract from the report, section on lobbying by Glencore Xstrata – by Rachel Tansey:

6 .1 Glencore Xstrata: Coal before climate, profit before people

Like many Northern corporations operating in South America, Glencore Xstrata not only has local influence in its many countries of operation, but also in its home countries and regions (Australia and Europe) – as well as internationally, via a network of lobby groups working to protect and promote its interests at all levels.

6.2 Australia’s Greenhouse Mafia

Before merging with Glencore, Xstrata Australia was part of the self-proclaimed “greenhouse mafia”, a group that defends the interests of dirty industry and works to prevent Australia from implementing meaningful climate change policy25. Through the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), Xstrata fought against Australia’s renewable energy targets26 and attacked the auctioning of carbon credits (demanding that permits to pollute be given to the mining industry for free)27, as well as running ‘citizens campaigns’ in support of the coal industry via industry-financed front groups28. Glencore, along with BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Rio Tinto, is a member of the influential Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN), which has had delegates at numerous UNFCCC COPs and even boasts of advising the Australian government delegation at the climate talks.29 This advice would mean Australia reneging on its legal and moral commitments as a developed country to cut emissions while providing finance and technology to developing countries30.

Xstrata’s top executives have also been part of these active lobby groups. The current Chief of Glencore Xstrata Coal, Peter Freyberg, has publicly claimed taking action on coal would “cost jobs and move investment offshore”, and even described planned legal challenges to coal projects as an “abuse of the judicial system”31. Former chairman Peter Coates used his position as a member of the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading to warn the government away from climate leadership and an ambitious emissions trading scheme32.

6.3 International Clout

In Europe Glencore Xstrata is also at the forefront of lobbying efforts to prevent real solutions to the climate change crisis. It works through the Brussels-based lobby consultancies Fipra International and G Plus33, and is also a member of Eurometaux34, the metals industry lobby. Eurometaux has persistently lobbied the European Commission for free pollution permits under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS, see box 3), threatening that high costs would drive them out of business – or out of Europe. Eurometaux also told the EU to not set climate targets before the Paris COP in 201535, and to instead prioritise industrial recovery36.

Glencore Xstrata has also been promoting its interests via presence on numerous industry delegations at the UN climate talks. At COP17 in Durban its staff were admitted under the guise of the notorious fossil fuel lobby AIGN (see above) and the International Council on Mining and Minerals (ICMM); while its membership of the World Coal Association (WCA, where Xstrata Coal’s Peter Freyberg is a Director)37 and the World Economic Forum (which promotes carbon capture and storage – CCS – and carbon markets, and where Glencore is a board member38) meant that its interests were widely represented39. All of these groups were also at the ‘Coal’ COP19 in Warsaw, where the WCA co-hosted the ‘International Coal and Climate Summit’ alongside the Polish Presidency of COP19. Head of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, gave a keynote speech, tacitly legitimising the coal lobby of which Glencore Xstrata is a key player. And like both its fellow coal companies and the other corporations in this report, Glencore is heavily involved in promoting CCS (see box 6) and steering the research agenda in order to receive public funds for projects.40

Far from being socially responsible Glencore Xstrata is actively and aggressively lobbying for false solutions to climate change through its myriad of shady lobby groups. Worryingly, it is having considerable success at Australian and European level as well as within the UNFCCC, both by shaping Australian and EU negotiating positions, and by using its lobby groups to create a climate-friendly narrative around fossil fuels.

For footnotes, download the full report

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