Special Report Climate Change:
How Oil Giant Influenced Bush
White House sought advice from Exxon on Kyoto stance
John Vidal, environment editor
Wednesday June 8, 2005
President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly
a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department
papers seen by the Guardian.
The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White
House for discussions on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions of how close the
company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate US policy.
In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary
of state, Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's
"active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies
the company might find acceptable.
Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon
executives and other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.
Until now Exxon has publicly maintained that it had no involvement
in the US government's rejection of Kyoto. But the documents, obtained by Greenpeace under US freedom of information legislation,
suggest this is not the case.
"Potus [president of the United States] rejected Kyoto in part
based on input from you [the Global Climate Coalition]," says one briefing note before Ms Dobriansky's meeting with the GCC,
the main anti-Kyoto US industry group, which was dominated by Exxon.
The papers further state that the White House considered Exxon
"among the companies most actively and prominently opposed to binding approaches [like Kyoto] to cut greenhouse gas emissions".
But in evidence to the UK House of Lords science and technology
committee in 2003, Exxon's head of public affairs, Nick Thomas, said: "I think we can say categorically we have not campaigned
with the United States government or any other government to take any sort of position over Kyoto."
Exxon, officially the US's most valuable company valued at
$379bn (£206bn) earlier this year, is seen in the papers to share the White House's unwavering scepticism of international
efforts to address climate change.
The documents, which reflect unanimity between the company
and the US administration on the need for more global warming science and the unacceptable costs of Kyoto, state that Exxon
believes that joining Kyoto "would be unjustifiably drastic and premature".
This line has been taken consistently by President Bush, and
was expected to be continued in yesterday's talks with Tony Blair who has said that climate change is "the most pressing issue
"President Bush tells Mr Blair he's concerned about climate
change, but these documents reveal the alarming truth, that policy in this White House is being written by the world's most
powerful oil company. This administration's climate policy is a menace to humanity," said Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's executive
director in London last night.
"The prime minister needs to tell Mr Bush he's calling in some
favours. Only by securing mandatory cuts in US emissions can Blair live up to his rhetoric," said Mr Tindale.
In other meetings documented in the papers, Ms Dobriansky meets
Don Pearlman, an international anti-Kyoto lobbyist who has been a paid adviser to the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments, both
of which have followed the US line against Kyoto.
The purpose of the meeting with Mr Pearlman, who also represents
the secretive anti-Kyoto Climate Council, which the administration says "works against most US government efforts to address
climate change", is said to be to "solicit [his] views as part of our dialogue with friends and allies".
ExxonMobil, which was yesterday contacted by the Guardian in
the US but did not return calls, is spending millions of pounds on an advertising campaign aimed at influencing politicians,
opinion formers and business leaders in the UK and other pro-Kyoto countries in the weeks before the G8 meeting at Gleneagles.
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