Ethical Performance
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US corporations ‘hiding behind lobby groups’ to influence climate policy

July 2012

The row over US corporations’ support for anti-climate change activities has been escalated by an environment science advocacy group that has published a study of companies which are influencing discourse on climate policy.

Researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claim to have exposed companies’ spending to block positive action on climate change and support the discrediting of climate science research.

The UCS report, A Climate of Corporate Control, implied that some corporations are playing a more sinister role, influencing public discourse and government policy by spreading misinformation through political contributions and funding for think tanks and membership trade groups.

The report is the latest shot in a row recently stoked by the libertarian Heartland Institute (EP, April 2012, p1), which has sought to trash climate science and has likened a belief in anthropogenic global warming to the deeds of criminals and dictators.

In its introduction, the report said: “Our analysis reveals that, while some American companies have taken consistent and laudable actions in support of climate science – and of consequent policy – others have worked aggressively to undermine the science and block science-based policy proposals. ”

The UCS highlighted Caterpillar for supporting both sides of the debate. It is affiliated with the World Resources Institute and the Nature Conservancy, which advocate global warming solutions – but also the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, which oppose them. Caterpillar spent more than $16m (£10.25m, €12.76m) on lobbying during the study, with the spend skewed towards anti-climate change by a factor of five to one.

Some corporations’ actions, however, match their public image. Nike and NRG Energy backed conservation groups, and General Electric were found to support action on climate change, though an early draft of the report said otherwise.

However, the surreptitious use of lobbying was found to be a serious cause for concern. The report adds: “Given the inconspicuous ways in which companies can utilise supposedly independent groups to further their own agendas, the funding of industry groups is an important pathway through which corporations influence the national climate conversation without accountability.”

Union of Concerned Scientists | North America | Political donations

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