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Brussels, Big Energy, & revolving doors: a hothouse for climate change



Conflicts of interest in the field of energy and climate policy are being ignored by EU institutions, allowing some of the world’s biggest polluters to potentially benefit from the know-how and contact books of top Brussels insiders, according to a new report.

“Brussels, big energy, and revolving doors: a hothouse for climate change” by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) examines cases of EU public servants and elected representatives who have gone through the revolving door to corporate jobs with links to the fossil fuels industry or those who represent them. The report also explores cases where officials and special advisers have joined the Commission from roles in major energy outfits.

Five new cases are highlighted which show how blasé the institutions are about the risk of corporate capture of EU energy policy by Big Energy. In total the report highlights 16 problematic revolving door moves by former MEPs, a former Commissioner, special advisers and officials with close ties to EU climate and energy policy.

Major industry players such as the world’s biggest oil and gas company Saudi Aramco, Europe’s oldest energy firm Edison, and lobby consultancy FleishmanHillard are linked to these latest revolving door cases.

“The close ties between Big Energy and senior decision-makers, facilitated by the revolving door, are extremely worrying,” says CEO campaigner Vicky Cann. “The fact that so many of these revolving door moves have been officially authorised shows the institutions’ total lack of understanding of conflicts of interest and the risks generated by the revolving door. As the planet faces a looming catastrophic climate crisis, we need strict rules and a major change of culture to tackle the hothouse of energy industry lobbying, privileged access for polluters, and ever-spinning revolving doors that are so prevalent in key EU institutions.”

Among the report’s recommendations are calls for an overhaul of revolving door rules at the EU and member state levels, new safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest involving Commission special advisers, a two year cooling-off period on taking paid lobby work for former MEPs, and a vastly improved lobby transparency regime in Brussels.

5 key climate & energy revolving door 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.

The report can be read here. See the annex for 11 additional climate and energy-related revolving doors cases.