Business groups block actions that could help address the biodiversity crisis, the report notes

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Industry groups representing some of the world’s largest companies are “opposed to nearly all major biodiversity-relevant policies” and are lobbying to block them, according to a new report.

The researchers found that 89% of the involvement of major industry associations in Europe and the United States is designed to delay, dilute and block progress in addressing the biodiversity crisis, which scientists say is as serious as the emergency. climatic. Only 5% of support was positive and the remaining 6% was mixed or neutral, according to climate think tank InfluenceMap.

Researchers focused on associations representing five key sectors – agriculture, fisheries, forestry and paper, oil and gas, and mining – that have the greatest impact on biodiversity loss.

The study looked at 750 evidence such as press releases, blog posts, reports, speeches and social media accounts, made by 12 industry associations, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, BusinessEurope and the group. of interest to European farmers, Copa-Cogeca.

JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, Apple, Toyota, Microsoft, Samsung and ExxonMobil are among the members of these associations. The researchers did not examine whether these political positions were in line with the views of individual companies, many of which have made public commitments to protect biodiversity.

Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, is the variety of life on Earth, from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat all depend on this: without plants there would be no oxygen and without bees to pollinate there would be no fruit or nuts.

Scientists are still trying to understand how the web of life fits together and, despite technological advances, we can still only imagine the true number of species on our planet. But the Earth is suffering the greatest loss of life since the time of the dinosaurs and the fault lies with the humans. The way we mine, pollute, hunt, grow, build and travel is putting at least one million species at risk of extinction, experts say. The sixth mass extinction in geological history has already begun, some scientists say, with the loss of billions of individual populations.

The five biggest threats to biodiversity are: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of natural resources; the climate crisis; pollution and invasive species.

The extinction of animals, insects, plants and all living things has enormous ripple effects. Species must work together in harmony to thrive and provide the essential services that humans need to survive. The services provided by ecosystems are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. About half of global GDP – or $ 42 trillion (£ 37 trillion) – depends on the smooth functioning of the natural world, according to the United Nations.

The world has so far failed to meet any UN goals on stopping nature loss, but new goals will be set at the Cop15 Biodiversity Summit in Montreal in December 2022.

The US Chamber of Commerce has lobbied efforts to regulate PFAS, the widespread but largely toxic “forever chemicals” that are often used in insecticides in the United States. Copa-Cogeca, representing farmer groups, opposed the EU’s biodiversity reduction targets and ‘farm to fork’ strategies. He also opposed the EU ban on some neonicotinoid pesticides. In 2021, the president of BusinessEurope published an open letter that appeared to oppose the guidelines of the single-use plastics directive.

Several groups have argued that the war in Ukraine is a reason to reject biodiversity policies and lift regulation, but in many cases these same groups were lobbying from similar positions before the war.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), for example, has lobbied to loosen restrictions on oil and gas production on federal land since 2017. In 2022, a letter to US President Joe Biden reinforced this stance. citing concerns about energy security as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

A bumblebee hovers over the gorse in Devon. Copa-Cogeca opposed the EU ban on some neonicotinoid pesticides. Photography: Odd Andersen / AP

There have also been successful lobbies to revoke environmental policies under the Trump administration and to weaken the US Endangered Species Act and the EU Birds and Habitats Directive. The report found that the API was the most active in the lobby against the legal protection of specific species such as bees, seals and polar bears.

‘Although industry associations, especially in the United States, appear reluctant to discuss the biodiversity crisis, they are clearly engaged in a wide range of policies with significant impacts on biodiversity loss,’ the researchers wrote in the report.

InfluenceMap has previously analyzed the positions of companies on the climate crisis. This is his first analysis to focus specifically on biodiversity loss. The report is released in preparation for the Cop15 conference on biodiversity in Montreal in December, where UN goals for the next decade will be set. The world has failed to achieve a single such goal in previous years.

“Scientists warn that biodiversity loss is occurring globally at an unprecedented rate, but powerful industry associations are overwhelmingly oppressing policies designed to slow or reverse this trend,” said Rebecca Vaughan. InfluenceMap program manager, who wrote the report.

“This research sheds new light on a lobbying area that has largely been able to escape radar and should serve as a wake-up call for policy makers ahead of the upcoming United Nations conference on biodiversity.

“While it might come as no surprise that some of these industry associations are rejecting environmental protection, the sheer scale and range of pressures on biodiversity-relevant policies have been surprising.

“This report also raises the question of whether these industry associations fairly represent the political positions of their corporate members, many of whom have made public commitments on protecting biodiversity.”

The study looked at the EU and the US because data was more widely available in these regions. An InfluenceMap report released earlier this year found that major oil and gas companies spend tens of millions to advertise environmental jobs, but only 12% of their capital expenditures went to low-carbon development. carbon.

A Copa-Cogeca spokesperson said: “We have never opposed the emphasized goal of greater sustainability and together with our members we are working hard on the best ways to reconcile greater sustainability and food production. We believe this is the key ”.

Related: Cop15 is an opportunity to save nature. We can’t afford another decade of bankruptcy | Phoebe Weston

The spokesperson said Copa-Cogeca has recognized the risk associated with neonicotinoids, but believes they are important for maintaining sugar beet and oilseed production in Europe. “We volunteered at the European Commission for risk reduction measures to reduce pollinator exposure, but this was not taken into consideration.”

Chuck Chaitovitz, Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at the US Chamber of Commerce, said, The business community supports the acceleration of cleaning this broad group of chemicals based on the best of science and risk. However, all PFAS are not the same. Many have applications of social value, from cell phones, medical devices, solar panels, public safety and national security. The chamber has been engaged in discussions on how to best address the PFAS, while ensuring that there are no unintended consequences and costs ”.

Megan Bloomgren, API Senior Vice President of Communications, said, “API member companies continue to invest in innovation, research and best practices to further reduce greenhouse gases. [greenhouse gas] emissions and tackle the climate challenge “.

BusinessEurope did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

Find more coverage on the age of extinction here and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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