Poland's partners in climate crime: ArcelorMittal

Welcome to our mini-series of exposés, looking behind the greenwash to reveal the dirty underbelly of the climate criminals asked to sponsor this winter's UN climate talks in Poland, COP19. First up: the world's largest steel and mining company, with emissions greater than the whole of the Czech Republic, ArcelorMittal.

According to the website of the Polish organisers of COP19, the 11 official partners of the conference will “help in organizing the COP19 [and] provide substantial support. The products and services they offer are green.” Quite how they are measuring this “green-ness” is unclear, for these partners represent some of the biggest climate crooks, with the most vociferous records of lobbying against climate-friendly policies, that you could find.

In return for their “support”, these corporations get to call themselves partners, enjoy privileged access to the conference and of course, bask in a great greenwashing opportunity. Many civil society groups have already noticed that COP19 is being “polluted by corporate sponsors with everything to gain from climate inaction”, and have pointed out that whilst “COP19′s doors are open wide to polluting industry, places for observer organisations have been cut back. Several civil society groups have received less than half their usual number of places.” 

So who exactly are these COP19 partners, and how does their COP19 greenwash fare when held up to the harsh light of reality?


We start the series with ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel and mining company. It produced twice as much steel as its next largest competitor in 2012, with sales of over 80 billion US dollars. Its role as partner in the Warsaw talks? ArcelorMittal is building COP19's main conference hall, free of charge. On its COP19 partner website, ArcelorMittal describes how it supports a “lower-carbon world through energy savings, and greener products and services” and that it spent a total of over 50 million US dollars on developing green products and process in 2012, as well as considerably improving the efficiency of its Polish operations.

They claim among other things that their plant at Zdzieszowice is the most CO2 efficient coking plant in Europe, and that they have modernised the Kraków coke plant, “improving the facility’s environmental footprint” ArcelorMittal also boasts that “the steel industry in Europe has already cut its CO2 emissions by half in the last 40 years and many of our sites have already done all that is currently possible.”

Looking past the greenwash

Reality stands in stark contrast to ArcelorMittal's greenwashing propaganda. With annual emissions approximately equal to those of the Czech Republic, the steel giant has lobbied ferociously and effectively against closing loopholes in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), against raising ambition for the 2020 emissions targets, as well as successfully arguing to keep receiving permits to pollute for free. In 2012, ArcelorMittal threatened the European Commission that, "Higher power prices, which are a consequence of the EU’s Climate Change policy (direct CO2 costs, CO2 costs passed on power prices, costs of the renewable policies), are jeopardizing the competitiveness of the EU industry", and that, "ArcelorMittal is opposed to any measure that would either increase the 2020 [EU ETS] target and/or boost up carbon and power prices".

Whilst most of us are fighting for effective and just climate and energy policies, ArcelorMittal explains to the Commission that, "A successful climate and energy policy is an affordable one.”

Threatening the EU

ArcelorMittal's determination to portray the weak EU ETS as a burden on industry is particularly incredible given its history of gigantic windfall profits from the excess permits it received after bullying and scaring European policy-makers with stories of relocation to countries with no CO2 constraints – i.e. the fabled “carbon leakage” - which led to huge over-allocation of permits that it received free of charge, among those the ones of the Polish plants they mention in their greenwashing COP19 partner website. Their coke plant, Zdzieszowice, was over-allocated 940,265 permits in 2012 alone, while the Kraków coke plant also received a huge surplus of 276,205 permits. According to the UK-based NGO Sandbag, ArcelorMittal has, as of June 2012, a surplus of 123 million freely allocated carbon allowances worth an estimated 1.6 billion euros. This makes it the most oversupplied company in the entire EU ETS.

Have your cake and eat it

Lakshmi Mittal, billionaire CEO of ArcelorMittal and the UK's richest man, had warned the European Commission in 2006 that “ArcelorMittal is likely to have a large shortage in CO2 allowances of several Mt/year”. The steel industry is very energy intensive; according to the IPCC it is responsible for 6 -7% of global human emissions, and a report by the Carbon Trust puts the steel industry's contribution to EU emissions at 20%. Lakshmi Mittal had been successful in convincing the EU member states that unless his company got the permits it wanted, his steely empire would be forced to up and leave Europe to cheaper, but more fossil fuel-intensive, pastures abroad. Despite receiving the desired credits, ArcelorMittal appears to be carrying out its threat nonetheless, as jobs and operations are cut across Europe.

Business as Usual

ArcelorMittal not only has 123 million excess permits (worth 1.6 billion euros), but is also planning not to sell all of its surplus, and instead keep a significant proportion for future use. For example, it was allocated 184,949,947 allowances in 2009 while its verified emissions were in fact just over half that amount (94,053,080 tons). By holding on to its surplus for use at a later date, there's now nothing whatsoever to make ArcelorMittal reduce its emissions, a situation it's more than happy with. It was this appalling track record that led to ArcelorMittal's nomination for the climate category in the 2010 Worst EU lobbying Awards and the 2009 Climate Greenwash Awards.

Amplifying its voice

But ArcelorMittal won't be promoting its interests alone at COP19: it's membership of various trade associations and business fora means it can get its anti-climate action message amplified through many different channels. It is a member of the World Steel Association, where CEO Lakshmi Mittal sits on its Executive Committee; a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF); the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); and of Eurofer and BusinessEurope.

More will be written in CEO's upcoming lobbying guide for COP19, where the links between the biggest climate criminals and the fora and associations they belong to are revealed, while the other 10 COP19 sponsors will follow soon.


This story is part of our blog Corporate COP19. Read all the other stories here.
For comprehensive background information, check out the COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying.
For the latest, follow in Twitter: #CorporateCOP19 @pascoesabido @ecospaceship


This report was excellent.
Terisa Turner

This report was excellent.

I am part of friends of the Earth Canada. I am also the codirector of the United Nations registered international oil working group.

Decarbonising Europe's steel industry
Roger Manser

This report on ArcelorMittal fails to consider the need for long term restructuring of the European steel industry, reducing its CO2 emissions drastically: it is pointedly short-sighted and narrow-minded. ArcelorMittal has chalked up losses in recent years and so democratically-controlled ways need to be found (I would say through taxing CO2 emissions, not market mechanisms) to cut its and others steel output, as well as decarbonise Europe's steel production, and steel-using economy as a whole, and to create appropriate new jobs. This cannot be done by vilifying one company that would need to be involved in making the transition.
Governments and the EU Commission need to take the lead in decarbonisation, having singularly failed to do so in recent years: companies need to follow whatever regulations and laws they pass.

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