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Energy giants fail on climate lobbying disclosures

The cost of building a large-scale nuclear power plant in Australia would be at least $8.5 billion, according to the CSIRO and the energy market operator.

The cost of building a large-scale nuclear power plant in Australia would be at least $8.5 billion, according to the CSIRO and the energy market operator. Photo: AAP

Most of Australia’s major energy and resource companies have scored no more than a passing grade on their climate policy engagement even though almost all support the Paris climate pact.

A report from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) examined 50 ASX companies as well as resource giants BHP. Origin, Rio Tinto, Santos and Woodside.

It found the energy corporations had done well when making commitments to climate policy and even had some of the highest lobbying activity of any companies in Australia.

However, they did not follow through on their promises at the same rate nor did they disclose the specific payments they made in their lobbying efforts.

The report said it reflected the fact that commitments were “easier or less costly to make” compared to action.

Origin was the one exception, which scored notably higher than other because it actioned its commitments.

ACCR company strategy lead Naomi Hogan said the findings showed Australian companies were lagging far behind their US counterparts in disclosing their lobbying .

“While Australia’s major energy and resources companies are big political spenders with large influence on government climate policy, the governance and disclosure of these activities are not up to scratch,” she said.

When it came to disclosing lobbying spend, Australian companies scored in the bottom 20 per cent and none scored as high as even the average score of US companies.

Part of the reason Australia performs so poorly is because disclosure requirements around political spending are less stringent than those in the US and the UK.

Insufficient governance causes large gaps between company policies on climate change and the action they eventually take, and can also lead to “greenwashing”.

However, the report said Australian corporations could improve by following the lead of US companies.

American companies have improved their transparency after investors began engaging and referring to the CPA-Zicklin model, which measures the transparency and accountability of companies’ political expenditures and climate lobbying.

Australian investors could also refer to the Global Standard on Responsible Climate Lobbying to mitigate greenwashing and the gap between company commitments and their eventual actions.

– AAP

Topics: energy
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