We heard a lot in the last week about the 636 fossil fuel lobbyists who took over the COP27 process and were the main cause of the failure for the final agreement to have any teeth. The conclusion was obvious: We must prohibit industry from involvement in all policies! Mainstream media covered this NGO campaign, repeating the claims and target messages, amplifying the anti-industry dogma without actually going into the research to see if the numbers were correct. If journalists and political leaders had done some basic research (even just clicking on the link to the research data), they would have quickly discovered that the claims and the data were completely false, grossly exaggerated and contrived to create fear and outrage. Once again we have been hoodwinked by a group of unethical political opportunists preying on public vulnerability and fear in order to propagate their interests and spread their hate and mistrust of industry and capitalism.
The claims of obstructionist fossil fuel industry lobbying at COP27 have been made by a group of anti-industry NGOs lead by Corporate Europe Observatory and Corporate Accountability with research gathered by Global Witness. These groups created a movement called Kick Big Polluters Out demanding that COP27 sends these fossil fuel companies home.
I have written a lot on how Corporate Europe Observatory are liars for hire, not transparent, joining in any environmental-health campaign where discrediting industry will help the activist argument. They have no qualms paying freelance journalists to write about their campaigns or using tort lawyer funding to create uncertainty. What is surprising here is that a European government, Germany, is now giving this rag-tag pack of hyenas taxpayer funding to spread lies and mistrust about industry.
But did the German government get their money’s worth?
Who could go to COP27?
636 fossil fuel lobbyists are corrupting the UN decision process so they can continue to make their massive profits while the world suffers!
That is an emotional argument, and if true, should make you feel outrage and demand change. But it is not at all true. First let us look at the context. The COP is part of the UNFCCC process to meet annually for a summit which has, in itself, turned into a large global event with conferences, events and negotiations. Think of it like a large two week trade fair. This year it was hosted by Egypt with over 35,000 delegates flying to Sharm el-Sheikh to attend these events and join in the dialogue about how to solve climate change.
According to the official website, the COP27 Summit was open to:
- Representatives of Parties to the Convention and Observer States.
- Members of the press and media.
- Representatives of observer organizations (UN System and its specialized agencies, admitted IGOs, admitted NGOs)
- Members of the Public.
The organisers created a Green Zone “where business community, youth, civil and indigenous societies, academia, artists and fashion communities from all over the world can express themselves and their voices would be heard. The Green Zone promotes dialogue, awareness, education, and commitments via events, exhibitions, workshops, cultural performances, and talks.”
So the Risk-Monger could have been a delegate if he had wanted to “unfairly influence the process” as one of those manipulative “fossil fuel industry lobbyists”. But he would be a delegate merely in name (with a souvenir badge and, hopefully, a T-shirt) and absolutely no power in corrupting the process. He would not be going there as a negotiator, would be blocked from the main hall and would have no input on the final decisions and official communiqués. But he might meet other people working on climate solutions like hydrogen fuel cells, carbon capture and storage or improving solar technologies. COP28 will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates at the Expo site in Dubai (Hey, I have family there so maybe I will attend).
Who was Included among the 636 Fossil Fuel Lobbyists?
So while 636 fossil fuel lobbyists among 35,000 is a small percentage (less than 2% of all of those attending), it is not nothing (as we all know the oil industry pays top dollar to get the smartest people in the room). But what got my curiosity first of all is if there were actually 636 professional lobbyists across the entire world working directly for Big Oil.
It did not take long to notice something very wrong about the “research” provided by Global Witness. Four wind energy trade association delegates were included in the list of fossil fuel lobbyists. Is wind energy a fossil fuel? Perhaps it is because it consumes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions to construct their massive turbines with limited lifespans.
The researchers counted delegates from a lot of companies that were investing heavily in renewable energy production (wind and solar) and preparing for the energy transition. There were also quite a few delegates on the NGOs’ list that were developing green hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. They actually would stand to benefit from a harsh, swift exit from fossil fuels, so how could these innovative, renewables-focused companies be spreading their interests in the way the activist groups want us to fear? I suspect their delegates attended the COP to network and look for new green energy opportunities. And looking for opportunities is something that capitalists do … so we can’t have that.
What was interesting is how the large number of companies doing research in carbon capture and storage and developing carbon emission trading schemes were grouped under “fossil fuel lobbyists”. Most of these are researchers and pioneers providing solutions to reduce our emissions and their experience is essential in the development of sound solutions to the climate change problems we face. We need them so who would possibly want to kick them out of a dialogue process on addressing climate change? I suppose that would have to be activist zealots who are more concerned about denormalising industry than reducing carbon emissions or protecting the environment.
There were more curiously careless errors in the activist research (eg, the same delegates were cited twice under different categories or organisations), but looking at the entire body of research, I would have to say that, excluding the Russian and Gulf State delegations, only 10% of the COP27 participants on the activist campaign 636 list were actually representing the fossil fuel industry (assuming that we consider natural gas, like the European Union does, as a low emission, eg, green, source of energy). But that is evidently not reason enough to abandon a large global campaign against industry.
Global Witness, in their report, defined “fossil fuel lobbyists as people who have links to companies with significant business activities in fossil fuels, or who are attending the talks as part of a trade body representing fossil fuel interests.” So that implies that every chamber of commerce or trade association that went to COP27 ticked this zealous, bean-counting box. If Bill Gates had attended, he would have made it onto the “bad guys” list. An energy provider investing heavily in renewables but still using gas generators would be on the list. Somewhere in the wind energy trade associations, there must be a company with some fossil fuel interests. Shame on you!
Let’s just admit the obvious – these anti-industry NGOs wanted an alarmist headline and were looking for a means to juice the numbers (otherwise they would have wasted their time … and I would be doing something far more useful with mine).
I have come to the conclusion that the list of 636 fossil fuel industry lobbyists was simply citing all industry actors including miners (lithium) and agritech (next gen biofuels). The philosophy here is that the only way to fight climate change is to stop all industrial activity and go back to a world of prosumers and Amishtic cottage industries. The Naomi Klein argument: “You can’t have both capitalism and fight climate change” underpins their dogma. Thus the only way to save the world is to ban corporations and international trade. The campaign website states just that in their fourth demand – that “capitalism is destroying life as we know it”.
Such a rallying cry is not only against big carbon emitters but is also used to try to abolish banking, shipping and modern agriculture. Their solution is to just stop everything and let the planet heal itself (…and its populations freeze and starve). I have recently been writing a series on how anti-industry activist groups are applying the same campaign strategy that managed to isolate and delegitimise the tobacco industry against all industry groups so it was no surprise to see this campaign lead with a key claim that “We wouldn’t let Big Tobacco into a health conference”.
When these affluent activist groups claim that we have to kick these “big polluters” out of any government policy discussions, they are referring to all industries, including wind and solar companies, those investing in the green energy transition, putting a price on carbon emissions and developing the proverbial better lightbulb. Investing in solutions to have lower carbon-emission energy forms (like fuel cell technologies) is merely more industry activity that they can’t trust. And no one in the media seemed to bother to call them out on this.
I am not going to say these people are hopelessly stupid … but they are.
The Kick Big Polluters Out Coalition
So was the Kick Big Polluters Out research and campaign just the work of three organisations? Oh no, of course not. These seasoned campaign communicators know that if they get a large number of civil society organisations to sign on, join in and speak out, their impact would be more impressive. The louder the voices, the less scrutiny they’ll receive. So they got 450 NGOs to join a coalition that they then gave an impact-driven action plan as their title: the Kick Big Polluters Out campaign.
Just imagine the Risk-Monger, in his (cold) dusty basement, flipping through the pages and pages of organisations in the global coalition of the good and the righteous. He learned a lot, first of all, about who was not joining in on the industry witch-hunt. No WWF organisations. Only four Extinction Rebellion chapters signed on (“Splitters!”) and few national Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace units fell in line. I suppose they still have issues with accepting government funding. The narcissists at Just Stop Oil, who have been making a bit of a “splash” lately, evidently chose to do their own grandstanding.
But there were many curious groups that are now occupying a position of prestige within the anti-industry movement. For example, there is a group called Toronto Raging Grannies. They work out of a church basement and will come to your rallies and sing you a song or two if your movement so wishes. I particularly like how Granny Lizzie hit the high notes. Then there is Moxie Consultancy Collective, an “international consultancy” that was formed a few years ago when three activists met at a conference and decided there is not enough caring in this world. The main thing they’ve done is tell their story. The Enviro Show is a podcast run by some guy. The Centre for Environmental Justice Togo does not have a website (but they have 19 followers on their Facebook page). The Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association is also a coalition member and it has 78 followers on their community Facebook page (last contribution in 2019). At least that is better than “End Military Madness Against the Earth”, part of the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition that has no sites or outreach at all.
Perhaps “End Military Madness Against the Earth” was a joke registration. I think someone screwed up when they registered themselves as “Ordained Minister in the U.C.C.” but fine, that doesn’t matter, we’ll count him or her as an organisation (no journalist will bother to fact-check our campaign and the 9-to-5ers at Corporate Europe Observatory have nothing but contempt for their followers). It is easy to sign up and become a member of the coalition. The Risk-Monger, truly outraged by this industry abuse, has himself requested to join the coalition (it took 30 seconds and, like everyone else, I did not read what I was signing up for). Fingers crossed.
All of these global organisations are speaking out with one loud voice so you had better listen up (especially if they break out in song).
“Age of Stupid” Campaigns
I am no longer surprised that almost all large media organisations (from the BBC to Reuters to CNBC) blindly repeated these activists’ malicious lies without bothering to click and read the research tables that showed that most of the organisations on their list were working on renewables, reducing carbon emissions and developing the tools for an energy transition. This is what I have referred to as the “Age of Stupid” where nobody bothers to read anymore and just retweets memes that fit their political bias in closed communities of people who think like they do.
Dialogue is dead in the Age of Stupid. Nobody in the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition will read this article as I am banned from most groups who have created a protective echo-chamber to only hear those claims that fit their political interests. And if I haven’t been banned, the algorithms will make them have to work hard to find me. As these groups use social media tools to grow their platforms, their confirmation bias is hardening. If they only read anti-industry propaganda 24/7, who could possibly imagine that we would ever need industry, intensive farming or capitalism. And as their loud invectives are brutal, policymakers fall in line.
The goal of the COP process is to create a meeting place to dialogue, exchange views and find the best possible solutions moving forward. That one rag-tag group of environmental activists is demanding to ban all industry actors from exchanging views and sharing their solutions is just further evidence of this breakdown of dialogue (and their anti-democratic sympathies). If they succeed (like activists in the WHO did in banning the voice of tobacco industry research on vaping from their Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), then I wonder what hope there will be for further COP meetings to actually produce any meaningful resolutions that will be respected. The rejection of dialogue is the first step in delegitimation (except for the small minority still left in the room).
In the Age of Stupid, it is now considered a fact that the lack of success at the COP27 came down to the 636 fossil fuel lobbyists who flew in (on their private jets with suitcases stuffed with money no doubt) to disrupt the negotiations. More than 450 global organisations have confirmed this as an outrageous injustice. Just keep repeating the number “636” and “fossil fuel lobbyists” (Goebbels 101) and ignore everything you have read above (because the Risk-Monger is obviously working for these evil industry actors). Editor’s note: He last worked for industry in 2006. Facts don’t matter (especially if you are a granny in Toronto with a song to sing).
The German Model
A frightening evolution is how the activist campaign model has now shifted. The German government, via its Green Party coalition member, has taken a leading role in promoting environmental activism at the COP27 Summit. The Green Party leader, Annalena Baerbock, flew down to Egypt at least three times during the Summit even though her official responsibilities, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, did not require that.
In February, 2022 Baerbock named the Greenpeace International Executive Director, Jennifer Morgan, as the “State Secretary and Special Envoy for International Climate Action” for the German federal government. This American activist was quickly naturalised as a German citizen and was then named Head of the German Delegation to COP27. Post COP, Jennifer plans to travel the world to keep up the climate fight in the name of Germany. Greenpeace has not yet named her replacement, nine months on, so I suppose she is merely on leave until she gets bored (or needs to pass the German proficiency exam).
The Kick Big Polluters Out campaign was funded by the German government. I wish I were making this up. What was their goal in giving public funds to a band of unethical, fixated, dogmatic political assassins like Corporate Europe Observatory? Is Germany now demanding that industry no longer be allowed participate in the dialogue process? Whatever happened to that famous German consultation and consensus process that other European countries and the European Union have since adopted?
So the policy process is evolving now. If NGOs can get a foothold in a government, they are then able to fund and run their campaigns via government offices, official delegations and political leadership while still pretending to be representing the people. Their activists can become ministers or heads of delegation and easily shift from one role to another since they see no difference between pushing their ideals as a campaign manager and as a public servant. By funding and strengthening these NGOs, the German Green Party sees the opportunity of having a stronger political grassroots movement in the next election. But how then would NGOs like Corporate Europe Observatory or BUND be able to speak out against the German government when they are essentially “bought and paid for” shills playing the role of their useful idiots? I am beginning to wonder whether it was ever about representing the interests of civil society … or … was it just about taking power?
When an unethical group of zealots have achieved this and are willing to lie and use innocent people to keep public outrage in line with their political ambitions, I am not afraid to admit that I am quite worried about the future of democracy.