Lobby Group Tied to Koch Brothers, Brexit Climate Deniers Pushes 'Strong Pro-Corporate Agenda'
By Mat Hope
A new lobby group has appeared in Europe claiming to represent "consumers." But a closer look reveals it is actually backed by some familiar groups known for their efforts to weaken climate and environmental regulations.
But an investigation by Brussels think tank Corporate Europe Observatory suggests the Consumer Choice Centre is actually working as a lobby group for a network pushing deregulation, while working closely with high-profile organizations including London-based think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and U.S. oil billionaire Charles Koch.
The IEA's head of lifestyle economics, Christopher Snowdon, helped launch the group at an event just around the corner from the European Parliament in April 2017, Corporate Europe Observatory said. At the event, the Consumer Choice Centre said it collaborated with libertarian think tank EPICENTER, which the IEA was involved in creating.
As DeSmog UK previously revealed, the IEA has close ties to a UK network of climate science denial organizations that pushed for Brexit. Former IEA chairman, Neil Record, now sits on the board of climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Forum.
A spokesperson for the IEA told DeSmog UK that it "has no formal relationship with the CCC [Consumer Choice Centre]."
"Both organisations work on similar areas and staff have spoken at each other's events, but there is no official affiliation."
The Consumer Choice Centre has four full time lobbyists and spent up to €199,999 on lobbying between May 2015 and April 2016, according to lobbyfacts.eu.
Its original funding came from U.S. group Students for Liberty, its managing director told Corporate Europe Observatory.
Students for Liberty also receives money from the Atlas Network and the Cato Institute, which are also funded by the Koch Brothers and are at the center of a U.S. network that pushes for deregulation and helps spread climate science denial.
The Consumer Choice Centre is part of a "network of corporate-funded organisations aggressively pushing for deregulation in the EU," the Corporate Europe Observatory investigation said.
"In practice, CCC's [Consumer Choice Centre] activities apparently boil down to insisting that consumer choice always equates to less regulation, whenever any regulatory or lobbying-related discussion at EU level provides a hook."
Corporate Europe Observatory campaigner Margarida Silva told DeSmog UK it expected this agenda to extend to environmental regulation and energy policy.
"Considering that their biggest donor, Students For Liberty, is backed by U.S. hardliners Koch Industries, and Consumer Choice Centre themselves say they receive further funding from an undisclosed energy company, it is not unreasonable to expect this partisan funding base to translate into a targeting of energy regulation as well," Silva added.
It is also notable that both the IEA and Koch groups are based outside of Europe.
Likewise, the Consumer Choice Centre gives the Koch brothers an avenue to influence European policy, potentially exporting their highly influential lobbying model across the Atlantic. DeSmog UK previously revealed that Koch Industries spent between €200,000 and €299,999 ($223,634 – $335,449 or £142,464 – £213,695) on its European lobby efforts in a single year.
"It is interesting to note that Brexit and Trump may have conjured a climate conducive to deregulation, which has emboldened groups that are pushing a strong pro-corporate agenda," Silva said.
"IEA's activities have focused on the EU for a while now. They have, for example, published the Nanny State Index, and are a founding member of radical free-market think tank EPICENTER. And yet, IEA has still not joined the EU lobby register. The same is the case with Students For Liberty," she added.
Another U.S. free-market think tank, the Heritage Foundation, registered as an EU lobbyist for just one month earlier this year. The entry was removed due to "data inconsistencies."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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