Our new EU Gas Detector monitors fossil fuel companies' access to EU officials

The gas industry’s influence over European policy making is massive. Since 2013, the European Union has spent nearly €5 billion in taxpayer funded grants and subsidised loans for gas projects, with €440 million wasted on fossil gas projects that have either failed or are likely to fail. The industry continues to receive these subsidies even when it is now overwhelmingly clear that we cannot invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Now for the first time, Global Witness is launching a tracking tool that can alert the public every time an EU Commission official is scheduled to meet with a gas industry lobbyist.

The EU Gas Detector on Twitter (@EUgasdetector) tweets every time a new meeting with gas companies is disclosed in the diary of any senior European Commission official.

The gas detector tracks over 250 gas companies based on their membership in industry associations promoting fossil gas in Europe including Eurogas, GIE, G4DS, LiquidGasEurope, IOGP and GasNaturally, as well as some additional gas companies and lobby groups included based on their involvement in gas exploration, extraction, transportation and marketing.

We will also be scrutinising closely what has happened at their meetings and will be sharing our findings.

We have already begun analysing the historic data available thanks to the LobbyFacts database run by Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl. Since EU Commission officials began disclosing lobbying meetings in December 2014 fossil gas companies and their industry associations have held 813 meetings, averaging two per week according to our analysis of transparency data.

The rate of these meetings has remained consistent even in spite of COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions with gas companies securing 131 meetings with senior officials since January 2020. Fossil gas companies have held nearly 50 meetings on the European Green Deal alone in that period.

The gas industry’s wealth of access to Commission officials also likely reflects the massive sums spent by gas companies on lobbying. Fossil gas companies and their associations have spent around €300 million lobbying the European Union since 2010, according to their public disclosures.

Gas companies and their lobby groups similarly attempt to influence other EU institutions. 50 gas company staff currently hold passes allowing them to access and lobby at the European Parliament.

The fossil fuel industry is trying to convince citizens and governments that gas is a route to minimising emissions. However fossil gas is part of the problem. Each unit of fossil gas that is extracted and burned hurts our efforts to limit global heating. In order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming under 1.5°C, gas production and consumption must drop by 40% worldwide over the next decade.

We need a fossil free politics to secure action on the climate. A firewall needs to be built between public officials and fossil fuel companies. In the same way the tobacco industry was barred from lobbying on health policy we need to cut the pipeline between polluters and politicians.

Digital Investigations Gas