Ideological money laundering

Posted: June 17th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian

by Ben Pile, Bishop Hill

As everybody now knows, the headlines from IPCC WGIII report on renewable energy appear to have been written by Greenpeace. When the Summary for Policy Makers was published last month, I was one of many who noted the role of Greenpeace, and the extent to which the SPM’s authors were involved in the renewable energy industry. Steve McIntyre’s discovery has caused further criticism  of the IPCC’s letting such overt agendas near its evidence-making for policy-makers, even from the green camp, albeit only because it is such bad PR. But there is yet more to this story.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), who co-authored the report with Greenpeace, claims to be an ‘umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations’ of the renewable sectors. ‘EREC represents an industry with an annual turnover of EUR 70 billion and providing over 550.000 jobs’. They consist of a number of partner organisations, each representing one technology sector within renewable energy, such as wind, geothermal and solar, and each of these has as many as hundreds of members. As Mark Lynas points out, then, it is no surprise that the EREC ‘are of course enthusiasts for renewable energy’s prospects because they make money from selling wind turbines and solar panels, so hardly count as an unbiased source’.

Do the EREC only make money by selling renewable energy technology? Well, it’s member organisations, and the hundreds of companies they each represent certainly do, especially given the subsidies available to renewable energy companies, thanks to EU policy. But Gawain Towler, press officer at UKIP, suggests on his blog that there may also be ‘public money floating around this august organisation’. I decided to look more closely at EREC’s funding. The EREC, and its eleven member organisations all share an address: Renewable Energy House, Rue d’Arlon, Brussels — a moment’s walk away from the European Parliament. But the EREC are much closer to the political institutions in Brussels than this.

The EU Financial Transparency system — which only lists accounts between 2007-9 — reveals that the EREC were the beneficiaries of €1.8million  ($2.5million) from the EU. Just under €1.5 million of this gift from the EU government to a trade association is accounted for as follows:

Commitment position key: SI2.528581.1 Year: 2009   Amount €: 1.479.833,00 Subject of grant or contract:RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICY ACTION PAVING THE WAY TOWARDS 2020 Responsible Department: Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI)Budget line name and number: Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme — “Intelligent Energy — Europe” programme (06.04.06) Country / Territory:Belgium            Expense Type: Operational Action Type: Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme Co-financing rate: Mixed financingBeneficiary Name: EUROPEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY COUNCILASBL Address: 1040 BRUXELLES, RUE D ARLON 63-65

The project for which this money was given — Renewable Energy Policy Action: Paving the Way Towards 2020 (REPAP2020) — is in its own words intended ‘to facilitate the process of implementation of the RES-Directive, on a national level.’

The main focus of the project is on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) which Member States have to notify to the European Commission by 30th June 2010. One objective of the project is to have ambitious plans that ensure the EU to meet the 20-20-20 targets for 2020, as set out in the directive.

The RES-Directive is the EU’s rule on renewable energy.

Each Member State has a target calculated according to the share of energy from renewable sources in its gross final consumption for 2020. This target is in line with the overall ’20-20-20′ goal for the Community.

The question now is, what exactly is the EREC? It appears to be a council of trades associations, each representing a technology sector within the renewable energy industry. But it also seems to have been given a para-governmental role by the EU, to ‘map renewable energy pathways for EU member nations. Meanwhile — literally, at the same time — it produces seemingly independent research with Greenpeace. This report is taken by one of its authors to IPCC WGIII, where he is also a lead author on the renewable energy report. That report in turn seems to be intended as advice to policy-makers, including those within the EU.

Many have questioned the IPCC’s credibility for having allowed an NGO with such a naked political agenda as Greenpeace to influence its statements and advice. But the problem here is far deeper. Trade associations are not only lobbying for their members’ interests, they are being paid to lobby the EU to lobby in favour of the policies the EU has already determined it wants. It pays them also to set the parameters of its policies, and to suggest means by which they can be delivered. At the same time, the EREC publishes research which benefits the EU’s preferred policies at the global, intergovernmental level. And this research seemingly has the backing of a non-governmental organisation, Greenpeace, which prides itself on taking no money from business or government.

The next question to ask is this… Can an organisation that represents commercial enterprises really offer governmental organisations impartial policy advice? Imagine the furore that would ensue, were oil companies so instrumental in the design of EU policies and their implementation. Lobbying is one thing; such proximity to policy-making is quite another.

The organisations involved make no secret of the fact that they enjoy a privileged relationship with EU policy-makers. EREC member, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), for instance,proudly states that,

ESTIF has actively participated in the development of the Directive on the promotion of the use of Energy from Renewable Sources (RES) thus ensuring a favourable legal framework for the Solar Thermal sector.

Indeed. And the EU paid ESTIF €2,000,000 between 2007-9, so that it could better ensure favours for the sector it represents. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), boasts 600 member organisations across the EU. Yet these members seem to be so hard-up (in spite of the massive subsidies they enjoy) that the EU gave the EWEA €1.8 million so that its ‘lobbying activities’ (their own words) would continue tohelp create a suitable legal framework within which members can successfully develop their businesses.’ The EREC and its members enjoyed gifts of at least €8.2 million between 2007-9 so that they could lobby MEPs, and do research in favour of the policies the EU had already determined it wanted.

And it gets worse. Look into the partner organisations of REPAP2020, and the reports that have been published, and there is evidence of yet further funding from the EU. At the top of the ‘Renewable Energy Roadmap’ produced by the UK’s Renewable Energy Association, for instance, are the words ‘With the support of Intelligent Energy Europe’— yet another mysterious EU organisation. An EU press release from earlier this year proudly announces that,

With € 730 million funds available between 2007 and 2013, the Intelligent Energy – Europe (IEE) programme reinforces EU’s efforts to meet its 2020 energy targets to ensure a secure and cost competitive supply of energy while fighting climate change.

€730 million is a great deal of money for research and lobbying. But it is nothing compared to the billions more that EU sustainable energy directives will cost the population of the EU. Renewable energy firms are being allowed to design and lobby for the policies which will put cash in their pockets, nodded (or is that nudged and winked?) through by democratic representatives and NGOs. And within each member of the EU, the story is the same. Organisations with unclear public functions, and opaque funding arrangements such as the UK’s Carbon Trust, and the Energy Saving Trust are established between government, industry, and NGOs to further the sustainable energy agenda, all without accountability and scrutiny.

The lines between governments, companies, trades associations, ‘non-governmental’ organisations such as Greenpeace, and supranational organisations such as the IPCC under the FCCC are now fully blurred. A greedy ecosystem of organisations have been created across the EU, each with the appearance of independence, working in cahoots with radical environmental NGOs and governments. Yet few, if any, of these organisations offer accounts of their funding sources, let alone explain what kind of organisation they are: how accountable they are, how independent from government they are, and who they really represent. It is as if no membrane delimits their functions from the functioning of the state, except to conceal its operations.

So where does that leave the report from Greenpeace and the EREC? Greenpeace are proud of their independence from government and industry. Yet here we see them working with a trade association in the development of advice to policy-makers that will benefit that industry. The advice it produces will further the agendas of those policy-makers. The suggestion here is not that money has changed hands — Greenpeace doesn’t need the money; what  it gets for the favours it does the establishment is influence. The service it provides is to give government-funded, agenda-ridden ‘research’ the superficial appearance of independence and legitimacy: ideological money-laundering. It makes clean the millions of Euros of public money given to the renewable energy sector for its PR.

It is no surprise that the EU and governments, spurious quasi-autonomous organisations and NGOs are in cahoots. It has long been known that organisations such as Friends of the Earth and WWF are paid by the EU to lobby the EU in favour of the policies that the EU wants. And it is no surprise that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change takes research that benefits the agendas of governments. We all knew this much.

What is surprising is the sheer scale of this shameless enterprise. We all knew that ‘grey literature’ — non-scientific and non-peer reviewed ‘research’ — found its way into IPCC reports. What surprises is the extent to which ‘grey organisations’ — para-govermental institutions with public functions, but little or no democratic accountability or transparency — are involved in the production of policy and evidence-making, benefitting a narrow industrial sector and serving a particular political agenda.

But what really grates is that to ask questions about this process is to identify oneself as a ‘denier’, in hock to fossil energy interests and ‘well-funded’ PR organisations. Pointing out the implications for democracy and the economy when self-interested NGOs and industry-associations enjoy such privilege from government is characterised as ‘denying scientific evidence’.

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