Bid to destroy Europe's support for Kyoto exposed

By Andrew Buncombe

MONTREAL - A remarkably ambitious behind-the-scenes American blueprint for destroying Europe's support for the Kyoto treaty on climate change has come to light.

The plan which was pitched to companies such as Ford Europe, Lufthansa and the German utility giant RWE emerged as 189 countries attempt to agree the second stage of Kyoto at the UN climate conference in Montreal.

Put together by a lobby group funded by ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company and a ferocious opponent of anti-global warming measures, the plan seeks to draw together major international companies, academics, think-tanks, commentators, journalists and lobbyists from across Europe into a powerful grouping to destroy further EU support for the treaty.

The documents reveal how the so-called "European Sound Climate Policy Coalition" should work.

It would be based in Brussels and would have anti-Kyoto position papers, expert spokesmen, detailed advice and networking instantly available to any politician or company who wanted to question the wisdom of proceeding with Kyoto and its demanding cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that nations must make.

The blueprint was been drawn up by Chris Horner, a senior official with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute and a veteran campaigner against Kyoto and against the evidence of climate change.

One of his colleagues - who describes himself as an adviser to President George Bush -was last year the subject of a censure motion by the House of Commons after he attacked the British Government's Chief Scientist.

Mr Horner, whose CEI group has received almost $1.5m from ExxonMobil, is convinced that Europe could be "successfully" influenced by such a policy coalition, just as the US Government has been.

He believes Europe's weakening economies are likely to be increasingly ill at ease with the costs of meeting Kyoto.

And in particular, he has spotted something he thinks most of Europe has not yet woken up to.

Most of the original 15 EU Kyoto signatories - Britain is an exception - are on course to miss their 2010 CO2 reduction targets.

But under the terms of the treaty, they will face enormous fines for doing so, in terms of much bigger reduction targets in any Kyoto second phase.

These will prove unacceptably costly to their economies, Mr Horner believes, even if they try to buy their way out by buying up spare emissions for cash from countries such as Russia.

Mr Horner believes the moment for his anti-Kyoto coalition is at hand and has actively been seeking support for it from multinational companies.

In his pitch to one multinational, he wrote: "In the United States an informal coalition has helped successfully to avert adoption of a Kyoto-style programme by maintaining a rational voice for civil society and ensuring a legitimate debate over climate economics, science and politics.

This model should be emulated...to guide similar efforts in Europe focussing on the economic and social costs of the Kyoto agenda."

Elsewhere he claimed: "A coalition addressing the economic and social impacts of the EU climate agenda must be broad-based (cross industry) and rooted in the member states.

Other companies (inc. Lufthansa, Exxon, Ford)have already indicated their interest!"

Last night green groups hit out at the plan.

Kert Davies, climate campaign coordinator for Greenpeace, which initially obtained the documents, said: "These are the hit-men for the Bush administration and for the likes of Exxon.

They are behind the scenes doing the dirty work.

Evidently they are now extending their efforts to Europe where they are trying to undermine the momentum to solve global warming."

While there is nothing illegal about the lobbying, the documents reveals a rare insight into the well-funded efforts within the US to influence opinion at senior levels of European corporations.

Campaigners say the campaign is similar to a notorious lobbying effort carried out during the 1990s to undermine support for Kyoto within the US.

The revelation comes as international negotiators in Montreal are discussing the next step within Kyoto and the possibility of introducing new emissions targets.

The Bush administration - which has rejected the treaty - has insisted it will not agree to any measures that legally bind it to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Mr Horner has been present this week in Montreal where he has been attending presentations for journalists and NGOs.

When contacted by The Independent, Mr Horner confirmed that the strategy document was the draft of a presentation he sent to RWE.

He adamantly defended his lobbying effort saying "that is what I do".

He said he simply promoting a particular point of view, as did Greenpeace.

"I don't begrudge them what they do [but] they begrudge me what I do." Asked if he thought it was appropriate for a major American oil company to be funding a lobbyist who was targeting European companies, he replied: "Everybody else does." But Mr Horner, who is also a senior figure within the Cool Heads Coalition, a group that questions the evidence of global warming and opposes any policies to "ration" energy, claimed his efforts to influence opinion in Europe had been unsuccessful.

He said that RWE had not taken up the suggestions contained within his power point presentation, and that other companies had also rejected his ideas.

"I don't know why it's surprising (that I have lobbied European companies),"he said.

"What is surprising to me is why it's not working." Both Ford and RWE, confirmed that they and other European companies had invited Mr Horner and other advocates to meet with company representatives in Brussels last February - an offer that he took up.

He had not been paid any fee nor had they contributed to his expenses.

Mr Horner apparently travelled to Europe at the request of the European Enterprise Industry, a fledgling group hoping to emulate the CEI.

Bill McAndrews, a spokesman for RWE, said: "He met with [us and] other German companies in Brussels.

Brussels is the EU capital, there are a lot of people who come to meet.

We have not approached him since then."

He added: "RWE talks to all sorts of people.

We even talk with Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

We talk to various groups who come to Brussels...We discuss matters with all opinions.

It's important to hear everybody's side on such a global issue.

It does not mean that RWE shares that opinion." He said that Germany had undertaken to cut emissions as part of its adoption of Kyoto and that RWE had to follow those standards.

Adrian Schmitt, a spokesman for Ford Europe, also said Mr Horner had met with company representatives on one occasion "at a Brussels level".

He insisted that Ford had not supported Mr Horner's opinions.

"Exactly the opposite.

Our position is that climate change is a serious issue and appropriate steps need to be taken now".

He said that the company had been one of the first companies to withdraw its support for the Global Climate Coalition - a now defunct lobbying effort that worked to oppose US reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the late 90s.

When Ford withdrew its support, the company CEO, William Clay Ford Jr, told his staff.

"The climate appears to be changing, the changes appear to be outside natural variation, and the likely consequences will be serious.

From a business planning point of view, that issue is settled.

Anyone who disagrees is, in my view, still in denial." One of Mr Horner's colleagues at both the CEI and the Cool Heads Coalition, is Myron Ebell, who has described himself as a policy adviser to President Bush.

Last year MPs tabled a motion to censure Mr Ebell after he attacked the government's Chief Scientist, Sir David King, who has described global warming as a bigger threat than terrorism.

In an interview last November with the BBC, Mr Ebell said that suggestions that the environment was threatened by global warning were "ridiculous, unrealistic and alarmist".

He said Sir David "knows nothing about climate science" and was an alarmist who was "promoting this ridiculous claim".

Earlier this year, leading scientists warned that Britain's high profile position as a campaigner on climate change had led groups funded by the US oil industry to try and sway opinion inside the UK.

Sir Robert May, president of the Royal Society, said that "a lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change" was turning its attention to Britain because of its high profile in the debate.

The CEI is far from alone in taking money from the oil industry to challenge the science on global warming.

This summer a report in the US magazine, Mother Jones, listed a total of 40 public policy groups that have received funding by ExxonMobil and are seeking to undermine the scientific consensus that human activity is a factor behind climate change.

- INDEPENDENT

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