Climate sceptics launch Citizens Initiative to suspend EU climate targets - who's paying?

Earlier this month the European Commission gave a green light for the ninth European Citizens Initiative (ECI) – a proposal to “Suspend the 2009 EU Climate & Energy Package”, the EU’s plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and to increase the use of renewable energy by 2020. The organisers can now start collecting the one million signatures needed for the Commission to consider their proposal. The proposal also demands the suspension of “further climate regulations until a climate agreement is signed by major CO2 emitters - China, USA, and India.”

The individuals behind the proposal include Ludwik Dorn, a Polish conservative politician, and Fay Patricia Kelly-Tuncay, who leads the UK Campaign to Repeal the Climate Change Act. Other members of the citizens’ committee include Vitezslav Kremlik, who chairs the Czech blog, Anders Primdahl Vistisen of the youth branch of the far-right Danish People’s Party and Robert Stelzl, assistant to Austrian MEP Ewald Stadler of BZÖ (the party led by Jörg Haider until he died in 2008).

So who is funding this campaign by climate sceptics to sabotage EU targets for CO2 cuts? Fossil fuel companies have a long history, both in the US and in Europe, of covertly financing opponents of government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the ECI website’s “Sources of support and funding” the
Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament has provided 2,500 euro. The EDF brings together far right Eurosceptic MEPs from parties including Lega Nord in Italy, the UK Independence Party, True Finns and LAOS (Greece).

It seems a little strange that a European Citizens’ Initiative should be funded by a group of MEPs, but 2,500 euro is a small sum and the bigger question is where further funds will come from. Gathering one million signatures across Europe within just twelve months will require a far larger budget. The ECI for the human right to water to be recognised by the EU, for instance, has a budget of 100,000 euro (paid for by the Federation of Public Service Unions).

The ECI rules state that ECI organisers must “provide, on a regular basis, up-to-date information on all sources of support and funding for your initiative worth more than €500 per year and per sponsor.
I asked the Commission how often and according to which deadlines do ECI organisers have to update this information? Does the European Commission remind them of this? So far I’ve not received a response. I asked EPSU, the organisers of the ECI for the human right to water, what information they were asked for by the Commission. It appears that it is all up to the ECI organisers themselves to decide; there are no deadlines and no reminders.

If this is indeed the case, then that’s a far too laid-back approach to actually secure effective transparency. When citizens are asked to sign an ECI petition, they should be able to assess who’s behind the campaign, including who pays. That requires regular updating of the financial information on the ECI website.

The Commission should take the issue of funding transparency more seriously than appears to be the case now. Of the nine ECI’s given the go ahead by the Commission so far, four have provided no funding information at all. If the Commission does not ask them for this information and if other five are only required to report once, when they first submit the ECI, then that’s not going to lead to adequate transparency around European Citizen Initiatives.

The first nine ECIs and their sources of support and funding:

  • Suspend the 2009 EU Climate & Energy Package: 2,500 euro from EFD Group in EP
  • Pour une gestion responsable des déchets, contre les incinérateurs: no information on funding sources
  • High Quality European Education for All: 10 individuals, organisations and schools give 1,000 euro each
  • Stop vivisection: three NGOs give a total of 5,100 euro
  • Let me vote (granting EU citizens residing in another Member State the right to vote in all political elections in their country of residence): no information on funding sources
  • One of us (opposed to EU funding for stem cell research): FONDAZIONE VITA NOVA contributes 50,000 euro
  • Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity! the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) contributes 100,000 euro
  • Single Communication Tariff Act (End roaming fees across Europe): no information on funding sources
  • Fraternité 2020 - Mobility. Progress. Europe (aims to enhance EU youth exchange programmes): no information on funding sources