Awarding deception: Rewarded for anti-Kyoto lobbying ?
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), 25 June 2007
On 5 July 2007, during a gala dinner at the Café Royale in London, the winners of the “Public Affairs News Awards 2007” will be announced. This is a key calendar date for the lobbying community in Europe.
For Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), one particular award nomination stands out. In the category ‘European consultant of the year’, one of three nominees is Nicolas Robin. Mr. Robin is the associate director at Cabinet Stewart, one of the leading lobbying consultancy firms in Brussels. In his nomination text, Mr. Robin’s colleague at Cabinet Stewart, Paul Shotton, wrote: “Nicolas has an established record on energy issues. His work for an international think-tank has promoted a new perspective on the debate on climate change which has established this think-tank as a valuable contributor in the debate on climate change in Brussels and Washington DC.” A closer look at Mr. Robin’s work on climate change issues reveals a different story. With voting for the awards now closed, CEO’s research shows that should the ‘European consultant of the year’ award go to Nicolas Robin, then this would be a slap in the face for those with genuine concerns about climate change, and transparency in the Brussels political arena.
Mr. Robin’s nomination refers to the work done for the International Council for Capital Formation (ICCF), a subsidiary of the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF). The ACCF is a fierce opponent of government regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and played a prominent role in the coalition of think-tanks and lobby groups that campaigned successfully to ensure that the US administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol. Since 1998, the ACCF has received over US$1.6 million from oil giant Exxon Mobil for its activities to delay US government action on climate change. Exxon Mobil has funded a large number of think tanks in Washington D.C for work designed to cast on the need to act against global warming and delay government action in this regard. The ICCF is an attempt to bring this lobbying effort to Europe and other parts of the world. The ICCF campaigns aggressively against the Kyoto Protocol and other government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For CEO, given the urgent need for government action on climate change, Nicolas Robin’s work to improve the ICCF’s position in Brussels is a cause for concern and certainly not worthy of any ‘award’ (except for the EU Worst Lobbying Award). Furthermore, additional investigations by CEO have revealed that Robin’s unsuitability for such an award not only stem from policy-approach, but also from the nature of his firm’s operations in relation to the ICCF. In its publications, the ICCF describes itself as a “unique European think tank [italics added]”. For example, in its presentation brochure, the ICCF mentions that it is “Incorporated in Belgium, funded by voluntary contributions from corporations, associations, individuals and foundations” and that it is “an affiliate of the American Council for Capital Formation”. According to the brochure (and other ICCF materials) the ICCF’s address is: Park Leopold, Rue Wiertz 50/28 B-1050 Brussels. Also Brussels telephone and fax numbers are mentioned.
The Cabinet Stewart website does not mention that the ICCF is a client. Similarly the ICCF website does not mention nor clarify the role of Cabinet Stewart in its operations. Further investigations by CEO have demonstrated that Cabinet Stewart, not only works for but effectively runs the ICCF’s activities in Brussels. The ICCF has no permanent presence in Brussels beyond the Cabinet Stewart consultants that are acting on its behalf. Cabinet Stewart has organised a range of activities for the ICCF over the last three years, aimed at influencing EU decision-makers. This includes several workshops on climate change issues held in the European Parliament.
For CEO, the extent of Cabinet Stewart’s involvement in the ICCF’s activities emerged in 2006, when conducting a survey to assess the financial transparency of EU-focused think tanks. The ICCF failed to respond to initial inquiries for this survey and Nicolas Robin answered a follow-up telephone call to the number given for the ICCF in Brussels. Mr. Robin replied to CEO’s questions at the time by stating that he was unable to answer our general ICCF enquiries as he was working for the ICCF on a consultancy basis and was therefore unable to provide us with the requested financial information. He also failed to mention that he works for Cabinet Stewart (where he is currently the associate director).
In March 2007, as part of research into lobbying around EU energy policy-making, we asked Catherine Stewart (Cabinet Stewart’s Managing Director) to clarify her company’s relations with the ICCF (including the budgets received from the ICCF for the services provided). Stewart failed to provide us with the requested information, citing confidentiality clauses in the contract. A visit to the ICCF’s Brussels office at Rue de Wiertz 50/28, (right next to the European Parliament buildings) revealed that the ICCF’s Brussels address is merely a post box. The receptionist of the NCI business center confirmed this, and provided a phone number for the ICCF. This number (02 235 0555) belongs to Cabinet Stewart.
Therefore, in conclusion, it appears that the ICCF’s claims to be a European think tank are misleading. It is a front group for the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), run from the offices of Cabinet Stewart. The ICCF’s Managing Director Margo Thorning is also senior vice president and chief economist at the ACCF and flies in from Washington D.C. to speak at ICCF events. Presenting the ICCF as a European think-tank is an attempt to gain a legitimacy based on this false identity, which thereby creates the impression that the Kyoto Protocol and other government initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are opposed by European civil society. Nicolas Robin and Cabinet Stewart have assisted the ICCF in creating the false impression that it is a European think tank.
Whether or not, Mr. Robin becomes ‘European consultant of the year’ on 5 July 2007, he will be in the dock later his year when on line voting starts for the ‘Worst EU Lobbying’ award 2007.
In contrast to the stubborn climate scepticism of the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), the ICCF does not tend to question climate science but rather concentrates on scare mongering claims about astronomic costs for implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
In November 2004, during a workshop co-sponsored by the ICCF in the European Parliament with the collaboration of like-minded MEPs they warned “that Europe’s current approach to tackling climate change will seriously jeopardise the health of its economy over the next two decades.” ICCF not only campaigns vigorously against the Kyoto Protocol but also against post 2012 targets for further CO2 emission reductions. “If countries were to adopt a post 2012 target of a 60 percent reduction in CO2 by 2050, Italian industry would pay 54 percent more for natural gas in 2020, UK industry would pay 57 percent more, German industry would pay 39 percent more and Spain would pay 51 percent more.”
According to its brochure, the ICCF “liaises with Members of the European Parliament, Member States’ officials and the European Commission as well as other relevant parties [... and] participates in official hearings and consultation meetings as well as in informal dialogues with officials to comment on specific proposed legislation and policies. ICCF officers advise policymakers in various EU institutions, as well as in the Member States.” The ICCF believes that its lobbying to weaken EU climate change policies has had an impact. For example, Margo Thorning writes that “the increased flexibility of the European Commission’s emission trading proposal is due in part to the discussions and debate generated by the ICCF’s analysis of the cost of carbon reductions for the member states.”
In its Brussels lobbying, the ICCF abstains from crude climate scepticism, yet this is not always the case when elsewhere. An example of this is their work in Russia in 2004 that sought through debates, workshops, and a presence in the media to persuade Russia not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This was a very strategic choice, as without Russian ratification, the Protocol would not have come into force. During this campaign the ICCF sponsored the participation of Andrei Illarionov, currently a senior fellow of the Cato Institute and a former senior economic advisor to Putin. In a BBC interview in 2004, Illarionov stated “no link has been established between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.” In 2003, at the World Climate Conference in Moscow, Illarionov questioned the influence of human interference on climate changes in a presentation using slides provided by the ICCF. Illarionov claims that “Kyoto is killing off the world economy like an ‘international Auschwitz’”.
- Announcement of the Public Affairs News Awards 2007, As accessed on the Public Affairs News website, 25 june 2007.
- Public Affairs News, “Awards 2007 Nomination Brochure”, p. 27.
- FACTSHEET: American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research, ACCF, ExxonSecrets, as accessed on the exxonsecrets.org website, 25 June 2007.
- See for instance the ICCF brochure, as accessed on the ICCF website, 25 June 2007.
- Phone: +32.2.401.68.44; Fax: +32.2.401.68.68.
- Climate Change Policies and Economic Growth: What Way Forward to Ensure Both?, workshop in the European Parliament, co-sponsored by the ICCF and the Institute Bruno Leoni, 24 November 2004; Global Energy Challenges. The Key Role for Business in Energy Efficiency, Technology Transfer and Emission Reduction, workshop in the European Parliament, co-sponsored by the ICCF, Enel and the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 28 June 2006.
- On 8 March 2007 we asked Catherine Stewart to provide us with “an overview of Cabinet Stewart’s clients on energy and climate change issues, including the topics on which Cabinet Stewart works for these clients and with what budgets.”
- In her reply Catherine Stewart argued that she would need prior approval from her clients if she was to provide us with the requested information and that before asking them CEO would need to provide her with various information. In reaction to our response she argued that we had not provided her with sufficient information or assurance about our research and she refused to ask her clients for permission. Email by Catherine Stewart dated 9 March 2007, on file with CEO.
- The NCI Business Center provides “mail handling and courier services”, overview of services provided by the NCI Business Center, as accessed on the NCI Business Center website, 25 June 2007.
- Think Tanks Warn “Cost of Kyoto 10 to 15 Times Over EU Predictions” and Call for Radical Rethink over 2012 Policy, webpage with link to workshop presentations, as accessed on the ICCF website, 25 June 2007.
- The Cost of the Kyoto Protocol; Moving Forward on Climate Change Policy While Preserving Economic Growth, ICCF, November 2005.
- See the ICCF brochure, as accessed on the ICCF website, 25 June 2007.
- Evaluating the Impact of Climate Change Policy: Does the Choice of Economic Models Matter?, by Margo Thorning, The European Files, September 2003.
- BBC interview with Dr Illarionov by Jeremy Paxman of the BBC broadcast, May 18 2004; FACTSHEET: Andrei Illarionov, ExxonSecrets, as accessed on the exxonsecrets.org website, 25 June 2007.
- FACTSHEET: Andrei Illarionov, ExxonSecrets, as accessed on the exxonsecrets.org website, 25 June 2007.
- Illarionov Likens Kyoto to Auschwitz, Reuters, The Moscow Times, 15 April 2004.