EU business lobby group slams “inaccurate and biased” shareholder campaign on climate change

Strongly worded response from BusinessEurope to ShareAction-led campaign

Europe’s leading business lobby group has hit back strongly at an investor campaign calling on leading corporates to consider withdrawing from lobby groups over their stance on climate change.

As RI reported yesterday, a group of investors including Swedish state fund AP4 has written to nine large listed companies asking them to review their membership of business lobby groups that the investors say are looking to undermine European Union climate policy. The campaign has been spearheaded by ShareAction, the UK NGO.

A spokesperson for BusinessEurope, the umbrella group for European business associations, told RI that it was up to companies to assess the advantages of membership. A spokesman for FuelsEurope, another group highlighted by the investors, said its position had been misinterpreted.

But now BusinessEurope’s President Emma Marcegaglia and Director General Markus Beyrer have hit back in a more formal – and strongly worded – statement issued late yesterday. Marcegaglia, the prominent Italian industrialist, chairs oil and gas giant Eni and is CEO of a family steel business. Beyrer is the former head of Austrian state holding company ÖIAG.

They reject being “named and shamed” as an organisation trying to undermine climate change policies by a group of SRI investors.
“This represents a very inaccurate and biased view on what BusinessEurope’s positions on climate policies are,” they write, noting that the body is an official EU ‘social partner’ (a European term referring to employers’ organisations and unions).They say the organization is “committed to and aware of” climate change challenges – and that it has repeatedly said it expects the UN climate conference in Paris in December to deliver an “ambitious legally-binding agreement” reflecting the long-term objective of limiting global warming below 2°C.
“We have raised our voice very clearly against the slow pace of progress in international negotiations so far, calling on negotiators to speed up the process to make Paris a turning point in global climate efforts,” Marcegaglia and Beyrer argue. But they remain “highly mobilized” to make the voice of the European business community heard.
The statement continues, saying carbon pricing and the development of a global carbon market should play a stronger role in the future. It reiterates the body’s endorsement of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as the cornerstone of climate and energy policy. But it would continue to “defend the legitimate concerns of exposed industries”.

ShareAction CEO Catherine Howarth hit back saying BusinessEurope’s own public statements (compiled by the Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster) show it opposed an ambitious 2030 energy and climate change package as well as EU ETS reform. “These are not the positions of an organisation that supports strong and effective climate legislation,” Howarth said.

“Responsible investors want to see companies review memberships of certain trade bodies and business lobby groups to make sure their own positions and interests are accurately represented.”