Eurolobbying: Going beyond Kyoto

The Kyoto Protocol on climate change is just the first step in lobbying efforts for a cut in gas emissions, finds Joe Lepper.

After eight years of lobbying activity by member states, businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was finally ratified in February.

But while member states may have signed up to slash emissions of gases such as CO2, any assertion that this marks the end of the road for EU lobbying on climate change is way off the mark.

Lars Friberg, policy officer at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, an alliance of environmental NGOs, says: 'After a hard, long fight the Kyoto Protocol is finally law, but it is important to realise that Kyoto is just the first step in a struggle that will take decades.'

According to Friends of the Earth international climate campaigner Catherine Pearce, lobbying by NGOs post-Kyoto ratification is not only to ensure commitments are kept but also to look beyond 2012, when the period covered by the Protocol ends: 'Governments may think they've done their bit, but it is important to see how Kyoto is managed and to make sure promises are carried out.'

This received a major boost last month when European Union environment ministers proposed sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions following 2012. They said cuts in the order of 15 to 30 per cent by 2020 and 60 to 80 per cent by 2050 should be envisaged.

The focus of NGO lobbying efforts regarding post-2012 targets is to convince the European Commission to follow the lead of the ministers. But while post-2012 targets are of concern to the pressure groups, businesses affected by the first phase have more pressing considerations.

For those involved in refrigeration and air conditioning, the priority is a European Parliament decision by September on regulations governing fluorocarbons (see box, p26). Also on the agenda is the emissions trading scheme - where poorly performing firms can buy extra credits from companies that have performed better. The details are far from done and dusted.

Transport is excluded from the trading schemes but the EU is considering adding it by 2008, with Can Europe highlighting this as a focus for lobbying during 2005. The UK Government has also said it will fight the European Commission, for putting quotas too high.

Within the power sector, there is a suggestion that senior figures have had enough of taking flak over emissions, and lobbying post-Kyoto ratification will involve diverting attention towards the transport sector.

Gavin Devine, a senior consultant at AS Biss & Co, which advises EDF Energy, says: 'The energy sector feels it has been unfairly victimised.

Energy firms would welcome other sectors doing their job.'

To rebut such lobbying, British Airways feels it is in a strong position.

The airline, together with airport trade body, Airports Council International, is lobbying for transport's inclusion in an emissions trading market.

BA corporate comms manager Laura Goodes says: 'If you have performed well, which we think we have, then there are real opportunities within these markets, more effective than simply putting extra taxes on the industry.'

However, Thierry Lebeaux, EU office head and executive director at Citigate Public Affairs, which this year lost its more-than-a-decade hold on the TUI UK account, says the aviation sector is far from united in its lobbying efforts: 'Charter companies' margins are less. BA may have the ability to absorb the cost of trading but others may not.'

Their best plan, says Lebeaux will be to stress reducing emissions. However, even he agrees that this cannot be viewed in isolation: 'If you want to cut emissions, you can alter the take-off procedure, but this involves flying lower and increases noise pollution.'

Possible legislation on fuel tax is a major concern in the aviation sector, with talk in EU institutions of a tax on kerosene. Lebeaux says it would cause firms to spend money they can ill afford on developing new technology.

He adds: 'The premise that a tax would generate incentives to reduce pollution and improve fuel efficiency is a nice thought, but wishful thinking.'

One area that Kyoto didn't set targets on is the use of renewable energy.

The British Wind Energy Association head of communications Alison Hill says a raft of lobbying will happen in 2005 to ensure renewable energy is at the front of people's mind. It was one of 11 renewable energy organisations to publish a manifesto to MPs in February explaining how natural energy can contribute to Kyoto targets.

Its 'Embrace the Revolution' campaign will include 'a day of public demonstration of support' scheduled shortly before the G8 summit in Scotland and the EU presidency falling to the UK, which both take place in July.

The event is likely to be a culmination of local-level activity and may involve a mass switch on of turbines.

Hill says: 'The media like negative stories about wind energy but there is also great public support for it. That is what we are trying to get over to MPs.'

While it is clear that lobbying at a European level over Kyoto is far from over, further opportunities for public affairs perhaps lie on a larger scale.

Devine says: 'Kyoto was just the start. The real work for the future is on the global stage. For me, getting India and China, which are currently excluded, on board and how that is managed are where the real challenges lie.'

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

World Wildlife Fund offices across Europe have developed separate campaigns surrounding Kyoto to meet their specific needs.

Because of their countries' high use of coal, lobbyists in the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland are focusing on supporting the use of emissions trading schemes.

Elsewhere other offices are targeting renewable energy as this is more applicable to countries such as France, where power is mainly nuclear.

In the UK, 'Climate Chaos' was launched in December and is set to run until the end of 2006. WWF UK climate change programme leader Nicola Saltman says: 'The focus of our work is on the power sector as it is the biggest cause of CO2 emissions. We want to show what it can do through emissions trading schemes to help the problem.'

Forthcoming campaigns include the promotion of the international WWF's 'Power Pioneers' programme, which recognises firms that are making strides in cutting emissions. So far no UK power firms have shown an interest.

In the UK there will also be a campaign surrounding the general election to put climate change on the political agenda.

And while there are no immediate plans to focus on the possible inclusion of transport in emissions trading schemes, WWF UK is understood to be considering the recruitment of a transport policy adviser.

HYDROFLUOROCARBON EMISSIONS

Europe's refrigeration and air-conditioning industry, a large producer of hydrofluorocarbon emissions, is bracing itself for a wave of fresh lobbying following the EU's ratification of Kyoto.

While the Protocol failed to bow to pressure from, among others, Friends of the Earth, for a complete phase out of HFCs, the gas is still one of three so-called 'f-gases' earmarked for reduction.

Lobbying efforts in Brussels are handled by the European Partnership for the Environment and Energy, which was set up by the sector five years ago to better co-ordinate climate-change lobbying.

Since 2001 it has been supported by Hill & Knowlton. Global public affairs head Elaine Cruikshanks says the next four months are crucial for the Partnership, as regulations governing the reduction of f-gases will have completed their second reading in the European Parliament by September.

In the planning stage is a parliamentary discussion on HFCs organised by the Partnership.

'From now until then there will be a lot of lobbying activity to make sure the amendments that we support go through and are carried out in a sensible way,' she says.

Arguments put to European policy makers will ensure regulations do not impede freedom of trade and movement of products, that the role the industry plays in cutting down on leakage is recognised and to continue refuting calls for a total phase out of HFCs from the NGO lobby.

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