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InfluenceMap reveals industry lobbying against biodiversity policy

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UK non-profit InfluenceMap’s new report reveals how several industry associations, representing key economic sectors and many of the largest companies in the world, have been lobbying against crucial biodiversity policies. 

  • The report highlights four key areas in which industrial lobbyists are attempting to delay, dilute or repeal legislation that would be crucial in tackling global biodiversity loss. 
  • Nature loss is accelerating at unprecedented rates and is deeply interconnected with the climate crisis. Industrial lobbying poses a major barrier to global efforts to address these issues. 
  • With COP15 fast approaching, InfluenceMap’s research could help to ensure that lobbying does not go unacknowledged in developing new measures against biodiversity loss. 

InfluenceMap’s initial research covers industry associations representing key five sectors with the most severe impact on biodiversity loss, including oil and gas, forestry and paper, agriculture, and fisheries.

It reveals several cases of successful lobbying against key policies in the US and EU, which could be crucial in halting biodiversity loss and transitioning to a more sustainable global economy.  

The ‘Industry Influence on Biodiversity Policy’ report has been welcomed by several financial institutions, including BNP Paribas Asset Management (EPA:BNP), HSBC Asset Management (LON:HSBA) and Storebrand (OBA:STB) and Columbia Threadneedle Investments (CTI). 

Harry Ashman, vice president of CTI’s responsible investments department, said: “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. We applaud the transparency and attention InfluenceMap are starting to bring to this issue.” 

“Addressing biodiversity loss requires transformational change. Key to this is aligning actions with words through having the ability to look at industry associations and their supporters”, added HSBC Asset Management’s global stewardship lead for biodiversity, Clinton Adas. 

What does the report cover?

InfluenceMap’s analysis used a similar methodology to the one it had already developed to examine climate policy engagement. The approach was adapted to include new policy and science-based benchmarks, enabling the organisation to conduct its first assessment of biodiversity-related lobbying. 

Its report outlines four case studies. These include lobbying against the implementation of the ‘30×30’ target for the protection of 30% of the Earth’s surface by 2030. This is considered perhaps the most important as the implementation of such an agreement is a key goal for the COP15 meeting in Montreal December 2022. This has been described as a ‘Paris moment for nature’.

The case studies also include as analysis of lobbying for rollbacks to environmental policies under the Trump administration and current opposition to their repeals, opportunistic lobbying in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and efforts to weaken the protection of specific species under both the US Endangered Species Act and the EU Birds and Habitats Directive. 

The research concluded that the analysed industry associations were opposed to almost all major biodiversity-relevant policies and regulations. Approximately 89% of the studied policy engagement was found to be aimed at blocking progress on addressing biodiversity loss. 

Although the positions of specific companies were not included, InfluenceMap noted that some of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations are represented by the associations it examined. It intends to conduct future research that considers these companies directly, while also expanding its studies to include more regions and industrial sectors. 

The biodiversity crisis 

Biodiversity loss caused by human activity is accelerating at unprecedented rates, faster than during any previous period in history. Given the interconnections between nature loss and climate change, failure to take action against both crises together will result in neither being successfully resolved. 

In addition to the destruction of natural ecosystems, this loss is expected to result in severe social and economic consequences. According to the World Economic Forum, over 50% of global economic output is moderately or highly dependent on nature. This highlights the financial risks associated with nature loss, which have led the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action to issue urgent warnings on the implications of nature and biodiversity loss.

According to the 2022 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), biodiversity loss is “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide”. 

Effective government policies will be crucial in putting a stop to biodiversity loss and transitioning the global economy towards a sustainable future. InfluenceMap states in its report that, in both the EU and the US, the next few years will be critical in terms of policy implementation and reversing the trend of biodiversity decline. 

Industrial lobbying poses a real threat 

Political lobbying is an established approach that allows industrial actors to campaign for less regulation, greater tax incentives, or other benefits. Stakeholders, however, are generally unable to gain insights into how industries they are involved in are interacting with political officials. 

This lack of transparency enables industrial players to push back against crucial policies without being held accountable. Such lobbying poses a very real threat to action against biodiversity loss and climate change.  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified “opposition from status quo interests” as a key barrier to political progress towards delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement. Similar conclusions were reached by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2021 report on Lobbying in the 21st Century. 

The Principles for Responsible Investment, meanwhile, has recently launched an investors guide to managing the risks associated with political lobbying. Its report suggests that investors could play a key role in transforming political engagement into a lever for sustainable progress by assessing the extent to which portfolio companies align with their long-term responsible investment objectives and seeking greater transparency around their decision-making. 

Investors are increasingly pushing for transparency on biodiversity 

A report from Responsible Investor in January 2021, which surveyed 327 global asset managers and asset owners, revealed that 84% of its respondents were concerned about biodiversity loss and that 55% believed it should be addressed within 24 months. 

The majority of these participants felt, however, that there was not enough available data for them to make investments that effectively supported biodiversity. As investors are becoming more aware of the economy’s embeddedness in nature, they are beginning to demand that businesses should identify, assess and disclose their nature-related risks.  

This trend has led to initiatives such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Disclosures (TNFD), the developing Nature Action 100, and a call from the 103-member Finance for Biodiversity Foundation to align public and private financial flows with ambitious biodiversity commitments. 

October 2022 has also seen the first European litigation case made by investors regarding a climate-related matter. A group of pension funds are taking legal action against Volkswagen (XETR:VOW) for its failure to disclose the details of its climate lobbying activity.

Industrial lobbying must be acknowledged at COP15

These interventions come at a critical time, with the second part of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known as COP15, due to take place in December 2022. This meeting is expected to see the finalisation of a post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to halt and reverse nature loss across the world. 

With such heightened stakeholder focus on the regulation of biodiversity goals, InfluenceMap’s research could prove crucial in ensuring that the opaque practice of industrial lobbying does not go unacknowledged.

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