The Greens/EFA achieved quite a bit at the vote in Strasbourg at the plenary last October. Could you tell us a little more on what happened and why it is so important?
Max Andersson: It was a good moment for all of us working to achieve better climate policies. It was the first time that the European Parliament, and any EU institution, has made a statement on the issue of vested and conflicting interests within climate policy. As the EU has been blocking discussions on this topic so far, it can be considered a milestone. That a strong majority 388-276 voted for this sends a clear message to the European Commission and to other parliaments around the world that they should start addressing the issue of having coal, oil and gas lobby influencing policymaking.
The World Health Organisation already has rules to prevent policies being influenced by commercial and other vested interests (the WHO and article 5.3 in the Convention on Tobacco Control that protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry). We hope that one day soon, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) will adopt a similar approach.
What was your objective? How long have you been working towards this?
MA: We have been working together with NGOs for about a year now on how to achieve a policy on vested and conflicting interests within the UNFCCC. We organised a side event at COP22 last year in Marrakesh which gained a lot of attention. In May this year we sent a small delegation to a workshop on the 'engagement of non-Party stakeholders' in Bonn during the “inter-sessional”. The NGOs got a lot of press coverage in many countries, especially the report from Corporate Accountability International on dirty lobbyists' influence on the UNFCCC process.
We also continued campaigning on the issue within the European institutions. I recently tabled a question to the Commission on transparency and vested interests within climate policy, and as a group we tabled an amendment to prevent dirty lobbies from influencing on the UNFCCC process in the COP23 resolution.
Was it easy to convince your colleagues from other groups? Did you expect this call to be heard and taken on board?
MA: I was very pleasantly surprised that the amendment won in plenary. It had initially been rejected by the parliament’s environment committee earlier in September, which is usually a good tell if your ideas have a chance of gaining a majority. I knew I had support from colleagues in the S&D group and GUE, and was very glad to also see the support from the ALDE group.
However, one can never know for sure until the votes are counted. There are many politicians that say they want more ambitious climate policies, but at the same time continue to subsidise fossil fuels and facilitate nuclear power. Some even propose gas as an option.
Our group asked for a “Roll Call Vote” and the NGOs helped to put pressure on the other political groups. It worked. The Greens do have a lot of political capital when it comes to climate and transparency issues, and this most likely helped us in plenary.
The resolutions are not binding, right? So do you think this will have an impact on the EU debate and its position regarding the UNFCCC and its own targets in the sectors of transport, energy etc...? How?
MA: That is correct, the resolution is not binding. But it would look very strange if the Commission keeps trying to block a discussion on rules for conflicts of interest now that parliament has said they should exist. The resolution is a strong political message from the European Parliament to the Commission and the Council. Regarding its impact on targets I am not sure what the effect will be. The current NDCs are set too low in many countries. Hopefully, if we make sure that climate policies are not interfered with by fossil lobbies, we will also see more ambition soon.
What are the next steps?
MA: The mandate of the official European Parliament delegation to COP23 is based on this resolution, and therefore the issue of the coal, oil and gas lobby needs to be addressed. We will make sure to put pressure on both the Commission and the Council. We will remind our colleagues also during discussions on the energy package that is currently being negotiated. We are also planning an event at COP23 to continue this discussion, and we are looking forward to the release of a new report by Corporate Accountability International on the corporate capture of public policy. The momentum on this issue will keep building up, and I look forward to continuing to work with our allies for more clean and fair climate policies!
· Who in the European Parliament voted in favour of more transparency and to protect the negotiations against dirty lobbies’ interests? See here.
· See the adopted text, the mandate of the European Parliament at the next COP