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Exxon Lobbyists Pushed European Officials to Water Down Green Deal With Carbon Pricing Plan for Vehicles

Climate activist Greta Thunberg called the deal, in which officials are still determining whether to apply the lobbyists' advice, a "surrender" to fossil fuel interests.

ExxonMobil lobbyists met with Euopean Commission officials last fall to urge them to weaken to European Green Deal. (Photo: Minale Tattersfield/Flickr/cc)

Climate lobbying watchdog InfluenceMap revealed Friday that ExxonMobil met with European Commission officials who were finalizing the European Green Deal last fall, pushing the commission to take steps to ensure that drivers in Europe will continue driving cars that run on fossil fuels instead of transitioning to electric vehicles.

According to a report released Friday by InfluenceMap, Exxon met with commission officials in November 2019 to request an extension of the Green Deal's carbon pricing policy, known as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), to tailpipe emissions.

The policy currently only applies to "stationary" carbon emissions sources such as power plants, requiring a cap on emissions for those sources.

"Give serious consideration to extending ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) beyond stationary sources," read the meeting notes, which were obtained by InfluenceMap through a FOIA request. "Tailpipe emission legislation should be substituted with power plant to wheel emission regulation."

Applying the scheme to tailpipe emissions would remove existing strict regulations on road emissions and could stall the rollout of electric cars, as drivers' costs would be capped if they still drive cars that run on fossil fuels. The European Commission is still determining whether it will include tailpipe emissions in the ETS, according to The Guardian.

The Green Deal, which was released Wednesday and was denounced as a "surrender" by climate action leader Greta Thunberg, stops short of phasing out combustion engines for vehicles. The plan demands that European countries reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which many climate scientists and advocates say is too late to stem the climate crisis.

Exxon met with European officials as it faces litigation in the U.S. regarding allegations that the company knew its carbon emissions could have a "catastrophic" effect on the planet as early as 1977. The meeting in November was just one example of Exxon's attempt to influence climate policy in Europe; since 2010, The Guardian reported last year, Exxon has spent more than $42 million on lobbying European officials.

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Exxon's attempt to further weaken the European Green Deal represents "a shift from the propagation of climate science denial towards a range of more subtle tactics and narratives to distract policymakers and the public away from an urgent and robust policy intervention on climate on the scale recommended by the IPCC's 2018 special report on 1.5° warming," said InfluenceMap.

The November meeting is "yet another evidence piece of an ongoing strategy by the company to capture the narrative on climate, dwelling on long-term technical solutions, while attempting to avert the decisive regulatory action that the IPCC believes is urgently required to mitigate against dangerous climate change," said Edward Collins, director of corporate climate lobbying for the group.

Pieter de Pous, policy advisor for the environmental policy think tank EG3, wrote that InfluenceMap's revelation about Exxon may be a "blessing in disguise."

Attempts to weaken the European Green Deal by expanding the ETS "will now find a lot harder to claim to do in good faith, thanks to Exxon," wrote de Pous.

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