LobbyLand: An Analysis of Australian Industry Associations’ Influence on Climate Policy

This analysis identified five lobbying organisations that stood out as the ‘most obstructive, negative and influential’ in refusing to address climate change. They were the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NSW Minerals Council, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Producers and Exploration Association.

 

Credit – Unsplash

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This research finds that Australia’s most influential industry associations are having an overwhelmingly negative impact on climate policy, with 75% of the groups assessed taking positions against climate regulations while promoting a pro-fossil fuel agenda. This research is part of InfluenceMap’s ongoing research on corporate climate lobbying, which feeds into investor processes globally. The results will be of prime interest to numerous asset managers and owners currently engaging on the topic with corporations operating in Australia.

The results demonstrate that the country’s position as a global laggard on climate is not only due to a lack of political leadership. It identifies the key industry representatives behind a successful effort to derail Australia’s international climate commitments and highlights the diverse range of tactics and political interventions used to exert undue influence over Australian climate policy and regulations. Due to a lack of transparency regulation around political influence, there has been limited public scrutiny of these activities.

The findings come at a critical time following an uptick of opportunist lobbying to shape Australia’s response to the global COVID 19 pandemic. The disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel lobby identified in the report helps shed light on the Australian Government’s rejection of a “clean recovery” in favor of fossil-focused economic recovery measures.

Twenty industry associations were selected for the analysis based on a review of the lobbyists most engaged with key climate and energy policy streams in Australia. Just under 2,000 evidence pieces were analyzed dating between 2015-2020, with evidence from the last two years having a significantly higher weighting in the scoring system to capture the evolution of climate policy positions over time. The result is a detailed mapping of industry lobbying on climate-relevant policy in Australia. It highlights the depth and reach of the networks pushing fossil fuel value chain interests.

Many companies have come under significant pressure since 2017 from their shareholders to reform their industry associations, including BHP, Rio Tinto, Santos, Origin Energy, and Woodside. The research tracks the relationships between industry associations and their corporate members to give a relative measure of the ‘indirect impact’ individual companies are having on Australian climate policy via third-party lobbyists. International mining conglomerates BHP, Rio Tinto, and Glencore, were found to be the top three in terms of indirect negative impact, with pure-play coal companies Yancoal and Whitehaven, and oil and gas companies Santos, Woodside, and Shell also making the top ten.

InfluenceMap was set up in 2015, months before the Paris Agreement was signed. On its website, it lists the European Union, IKEA, and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust among its funders.

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John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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