The carbon lobby: Climate business

07 December 2009

The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) is a lobbying powerhouse at the UN climate change talks, and a prime candidate for the Angry Mermaid Award.

“The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is currently buckling under the weight of its own success” according to the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), which has suggested that the Copenhagen conference act to expand the scope of a market mechanism that many claim has failed.

This stance has earned IETA a nomination for the Angry Mermaid Award, which seeks to “recognise the perverse role of corporate lobbyists, and highlight those business groups and companies that have made the greatest effort to sabotage the climate talks.”

IETA was founded 10 years ago and now represents 170 companies, ranging from carbon finance specialists to transnational oil firms. It regularly boasts the largest non-governmental delegation at the UNFCCC, dwarfing the presence of established NGOs such as Greenpeace. At COP 13 in Bali, it accredited some 336 representatives, or 7.5 per cent of all non-governmental participants. The sheer size of IETA’s presence worried environmental and development groups at the conference. Peter Hardstaff, from the World Development Movement commented, “The fact that IETA is the biggest NGO in Bali is indicative of the influence it will extend over the outcome of the talks.”

At COP14 in Poznan, IETA once again had the biggest NGO presence with over 250 lobbyists. The lobby group had hired a whole building where it held up to 12 events per day, described by one delegate as a “real parallel conference”. IETA has geared up well for a large lobbying presence in Copenhagen, with some 66 scheduled events.

Promoting offsets
IETA uses the COP to promote the idea of a globally linked carbon market, with offsets being a key component of this.

Although the CDM has failed to reduce global emissions, IETA claims it has been a success. Its lobbying documents argue that the CDM “has demonstrated that market-based mechanisms spark new, keen interest in clean development activities in countries whose emissions must be addressed if the international community is to meet its climate change objectives. The invaluable momentum that the CDM has created must be preserved and built upon.”

IETA goes further and argues that what is needed now is “a new CDM with more flexible mechanisms”, including an expansion and broader standards for project approval, including sector-specific standards, allowing different rules for polluting industries – creating the potential for those industries to escape tough standards.

High-level access
IETA secures valuable access to decision-makers through its staff and members. Its President is Henry Derwent, a former Director for International Climate Change in the UK government. It also secures access through its members, such as Ecosecurities, a leading emissions trading company recently taken over by JP Morgan. Ecosecurities develops CDM projects, sells carbon credits and provides consultancy services to business as well as the European Commission and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In response to being told IETA had been nominated, Henry Derwent said: “We will be honoured to accept this recognition of the work we have been doing over more than 10 years. During that time we have been delighted to see that the principle of emissions trading has been more and more widely accepted across the world.”

IETA is one of eight candidates nominated for the Angry Mermaid Award. Online voting is open until Sunday 13 December at