Sven Giegold

CEO report: Brussels, big energy, and revolving doors – a hothouse for climate change

Brussels, big energy, and revolving doors: a hothouse for climate change

The climate cooks while the Big Energy lobby continues to walk the EU’s corridors of power, pushing its arguments that it needs to be at the negotiating table and that a combination of unsustainable techno-fixes and copious greenwash will provide the answer to runaway climate change.

Elsewhere Corporate Europe Observatory has documented the bag of tricks of the corporate climate lobbyist. We have shown that for decades these companies have been lobbying against effective climate action at national, EU, and international levels, obstructing policies that would effectively cut emissions and leave fossil fuels in the ground.

In this article, we explore one specific tool of the energy lobbyist, namely recruitment through Brussels‘ revolving door. The revolving door between the EU institutions and Big Energy demonstrates the corporate capture of the EU decision-making process (which is supposed to operate in the public interest) by industry agendas. EU institutions turn a blind eye to the pro-corporate culture, networks, mind-set, and bias that such individuals might bring, as well as to possible conflicts of interest which could see Big Energy benefiting from the know-how and contact books of insiders. It is clear that the European institutions‘ current revolving door rules are not strong enough to eliminate the risk of conflicts of interest, and corporate capture, arising.

This report focuses on five cases:

  • The Commission official: Marcus Lippold used to work at ExxonMobil, a company well-known for funding climate denial and blocking climate change policies; then he went to work for DG Energy where he was responsible for cooperation with OPEC. Now he is on sabbatical from the Commission and working for Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil and gas company which is owned by Saudi Arabia, a country which has been blocking action on climate change for years.
  • The MEP: Chris Davies MEP championed carbon capture and storage (CCS) while spending 15 years on the European Parliament’s environment committee, working closely with Big Energy interests to do so. Now he has set up his own environmental lobby consultancy and is working with FleishmanHillard, one of Brussels‘ biggest lobby firms.
  • The commissioner: Joaquín Almunia the former Barroso II competition commissioner, has been a paid member of the „scientific committee“ to produce the study entitled ‚Building the Energy Union to Fuel European Growth‘. The report was written by a for-profit consultancy and commissioned by (and likely funded by) Enel.
  • The Commission special adviser: Nathalie Tocci is the special adviser to High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini but is simultaneously on the board of “Europe’s oldest energy company” Edison, owned by French energy giant EDF.
  • The member state official: Matthew Hinde was Head of EU Strategy at the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change for the past two years but has now joined the Brussels office of lobby firm FleishmanHillard, one of the leading PR specialists in energy, whose clients include Total, Shell, Statoil, ENI, SHV Energy, Exxon Mobil, BP among others, to act as its Head of Energy Practice.

In the annex, further climate and energy-related revolving doors cases are explored.

Read the full report here