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Chamber of Commerce protest

Campaigners hung a pair of banners on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's building in Washington, D.C. on October 14, 2021. (Photo: Resist Line 3/Twitter)

Meet the Industry Lobbyists Fighting Efforts to Solve the Biodiversity Crisis

"This research sheds new light on an area of lobbying that has largely been able to slip under the radar and should act as a wake-up call to policymakers ahead of the U.N.'s upcoming biodiversity conference," said InfluenceMap's program manager.

Jessica Corbett

An analysis out Monday reveals the prominent industry groups representing major companies in the European Union and United States that "are overwhelmingly lobbying to delay, dilute, or roll back" efforts to prevent further loss of rapidly disappearing biodiversity on planet Earth.

"Companies and their trade associations must align their lobbying activities with biosphere integrity."

For the pilot study, the U.K.-based think tank InfluenceMap examined over 750 pieces of evidence related to a dozen business associations. Members of the groups "include some of the world's largest and most powerful companies," the report states, such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Samsung, Saudi Aramco, and Toyota.

The 12 studied associations are the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute (API), BusinessEurope, Confederation of European Paper Industries, Copa-Cogeca, Euracoal, Europeche, International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, National Fisheries Institute, National Mining Association (NMA), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"The research showed that these industry associations are opposed to almost all major biodiversity-relevant policies and regulations, with 89% of the policy engagement analyzed found to be aimed at blocking progress on addressing biodiversity loss," the report says.

"Although industry associations, especially in the U.S., appear reluctant to discuss the biodiversity crisis," the document adds, "they are clearly engaged on a wide range of policies with significant impacts on biodiversity loss."

Along with scoring the groups—they all received a D or lower—the report features four case studies: challenging the 30x30 target; pushing for rollbacks under the Trump administration; "opportunistic lobbying" in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine; and advocating "to weaken the protection of specific species under both the Endangered Species Act (U.S.) and Birds and Habitats Directive (E.U.)."

The study comes as campaigners and policymakers prepare for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), set to be held in Montreal this December. Attendees will negotiate new 10-year targets—after failing to meet any such goals from the previous decade.

InfluenceMap researchers discovered "numerous sector and region-specific trends, with the agriculture industry associations AFBF and Copa-Cogeca found to be the most highly engaged across a range of biodiversity-related policy." The researchers labeled API and NMA as "the most negatively engaged" groups, "reflecting a general trend of U.S. organizations mostly scoring lower than their E.U. counterparts."

Representatives for some of the groups pushed back against the criticism in comments to The Guardian—including Megan Bloomgren, API's senior vice president of communications, who said that "member companies continue to make investments towards innovation, research, and best practices to further reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions and tackle the climate challenge."

A Copa-Cogeca spokesperson told the newspaper that "we never opposed the [underlying] objective of increased sustainability and together with our members we very much work on best ways to reconcile increased sustainability and food production."

The report emphasizes that "this research focuses on the industry associations' positions only, with future research needed to ascertain whether these are aligned or misaligned with the positions of individual companies."

The document also notes that InfluenceMap's review "comes at a critical juncture, with increased interest from investors on how companies are impacting the biodiversity crisis but limited action to date, and pressure on governments to achieve an ambitious outcome at COP15."

Some investment leaders welcomed the study, which BNP Paribas Asset Management's head of stewardship for the Americas, Adam Kanzer, said "is so critically important" and "provides us with a significant first step towards nature-positive lobbying."

"In order to reverse nature loss, it is crucial to ensure the right public policies are in place, particularly those to protect key ecosystems," Kanzer asserted. "Therefore, companies and their trade associations must align their lobbying activities with biosphere integrity."

Similarly applauding the analysis, Harry Ashman of Columbia Threadneedle Investments suggested that "as policymakers come together at COP15 to chart a path for tackling global nature loss and companies develop strategies to reduce the risks and impacts of nature loss, they should be conscious of the lobbying activities they are supporting and seek to ensure they are aligned with their nature goals."

U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, also stressed that "protecting biodiversity is fundamental to our health and way of life" and praised the report, which he said "lifts the veil on yet another example of industry putting itself above repairing the immense damage it has done to our planet's welfare and security."

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