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Oil-coated dolphin washed up on the Gulf coast following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, projected onto the walls of the Science Museum by 'BP or not BP'. Photo: BP or not BP.
Oil-coated dolphin washed up on the Gulf coast following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, projected onto the walls of the Science Museum by 'BP or not BP'. Photo: BP or not BP.
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BP doubles EU lobby spend, drops Tate sponsorship

Kyla Mandel / The Ecologist

14th March 2016

Oil giant BP is the UK's single biggest EU lobbyist, spending over £2 million reaching out to European policy makers in 2014, new figures show. But citing hard times, the company has dropped its controversial sponsorship of the London's Tate Galleries - and more such branding deals may bite the dust.

BP can no longer use Tate's art collections to mask the devastation its operations have caused to people's lives in Colombia, Azerbaijan, Alberta. And the gallery - whether it admits this or not - has taken the best form of climate action it could.

Energy giant BP is the UK's single biggest corporate lobbyist in Europe, new analysis by Lobby Facts reveals.

BP spent between £2.23 million and £2.3 million (€ 2.75m - € 2.99m) in lobbying European policy makers on energy and climate issues in 2014, the most recent figures available.

This represents a substantial increase, almost doubling BP's declared lobby spend for the previous year, when it spent up to £1.16m (€ 1.5m).

The analysis by Lobby Facts - a joint initiative by transparency watchdogs Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl - is based on a 'cleaning up' of the EU's voluntary Transparency Register for inaccurate or misleading lobby-spend entries.

According to estimates by Transparency International, about half of the data on the EU's register is flawed.

The data also shows that in the past year leading up to the Paris COP21 climate conference, BP held 24 meetings with senior European Commission members, including nine with Miguel Arias Cañete, climate and energy commissioner, or members of his team.

This is significantly more than any of the other 15 top UK-based corporations lobbying Brussels according to Lobby Facts' data.

Bending the ears of power

Most of these meetings were concerning the southern gas corridor - an initiative by the European Commission to supply gas from the Caspian and Middle Eastern regions to Europe in which BP has a stake - and the energy union, which aims to create a fully-integrated internal European energy market.

Other noteworthy meetings include a discussion on 'EU Environmental Policy' on 22 July 2015 with Joachim Balke, a cabinet member in Cañete's team, and a 6 June 2015 meeting with Director-General for Climate Action Jos Delbeke on the 'role of private business and carbon pricing in climate action.'

These meetings were around the same time that BP, along with other energy giants, published a letter in the Financial Times in June calling for "widespread and effective" carbon pricing to be part of the Paris deal.

Then, last October BP joined nine other energy companies in issuing a statement saying they would "play their part" in battling climate change, including helping limit warming to 2C. However, this pledge did not bring forward the call for a carbon price as included in the June letter.

The data also shows that less than two months prior to the December 2015 climate conference BP lobbyists met with Michael Karnitschnig, chief of staff to EU Commissioner for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn, on 22 October to discuss 'international energy issues' and then met Balke on 9th November to talk about 'energy infrastructure'.

Tate sponsorship only provided 0.5% of budget

It was also announced late last week that BP's 26-year old sponsorship of art museum Tate is to end in 2017. BP cited the "extremely challenging business environment" as its reason for withdrawing funding.

The company denied that the decision was connected with the years of years of protest by Platform, arts collective Liberate Tate, the Art Not Oil coalition and creative campaign group 'BP or not BP' against the company's efforts to gain 'social licence' through arts sponsorship: "They are free to express their points of view but our decision wasn't influenced by that. It was a business decision."

Tate praised BP saying it long-term support had been an "outstanding example of patronage". But Platform's Anna Galkina said: "BP can no longer use Tate's art collections to mask or excuse the devastation its operations have caused to people's lives in Colombia, Azerbaijan, Alberta. And the gallery - whether it admits this or not - has taken the best form of climate action it could.

"We only hope that the British Museum, Science Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Royal Opera House will follow in Tate's lead. We look forward to Tate joining the Fossil Funds Free commitment!"

Last year the campaigners forced Tate to reveal in an Information Tribunal that BP's fees accounted for only 0.5% of Tate's budget (an average of £224,000 a year). This May, Tate is to appear at the Information Tribunal - once again over refusal to disclose further sponsorship details.

In a surprise action this weekend, BP or not BP targetted the Science Museum in London with giant images of environmental damage caused by BP projected onto the museum's walls.

"BP's sponsorship of the Science Museum isn't philanthropy. It is a cheap way for BP to gain the social legitimacy it needs in order to press ahead with new high-risk projects like the four ultra deep-water wells it now has planned for the Great Australian Bight", said the group's Chris Garrard.

BP currently sponsors the Science Museum's Cosmonauts exhibition and collaborates with the museum on the Ultimate Stem Challenge, a competition for schoolchildren. It also continues to sponsor the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House.

All three institutions are currently in discussions as to whether to renew their deals with BP.

 


 

Kyla Mandel is Deputy Editor of DeSmog UK. She tweets @kylamandel.

This article is based on one originally published by DeSmog.uk with additional reporting by The Ecologist.

 

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