Top 10 Climate Change Action Blockers

  1. National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  3. American Petroleum Institute (API)
  4. American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers (FMP)
  5. Alliance of Automotive Innovation
  6. National Mining Association (NMA)
  7. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  8. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
  9. Mineral Council of Australia
  10. Japan Business Federation

Overview of the climate lobbying landscape

The common conception of lobbying is that it happens behind closed doors, and, indeed, much activity to influence climate change policy happens away from serious public scrutiny. Official disclosure systems, such as the US Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, provide only a small window into this world, with much of the detail of how regulations are lobbied not provided. This focus, however, (i.e. direct engagement between lawmakers and companies) captures only a part of a systematic effort from the fossil fuel value chain to influence the climate change agenda.

Excluding funds potentially directed either to think tanks or directly on elections, in March 2019 InfluenceMap calculated that since the Paris Agreement negotiations in 2015, the 5 Oil and Gas Majors alone (ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Total) have spent over $1 billion on misleading climate branding and wide-ranging lobbying efforts. These efforts are overwhelmingly in conflict with the goals of the Paris global climate accord and designed to maintain the social and legal license to operate and expand fossil fuel operations. In context, the same companies’ annual CAPEX for oil/gas-related business stands at over $100 billion annually, and the IMF states the US alone provides $650bn in fossil fuel subsidies a year. In other words, a great return on investment of lobbying dollars.

The Impact of Trade Associations

The primary focus of trade associations is to control the detailed climate regulatory agenda. Trade associations around the world have a stated function to influence policy in the interests of their corporate members. The US Chamber of Commerce, for example, states members "count on the Chamber to be their voice in Washington, D.C." Trade associations and business federations are particularly effective for two key reasons:

  • They are highly experienced and have well-oiled strategies to influence legislation and regulation, tracking and countering all strands of binding policy that could impact their fossil fuel value chain members. These tactics range from the capture of the wider narrative on climate to legal challenges to specific regulatory strands. Certain trade associations, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, are also powerfully involved in election influencing.
  • They claim to be representative of large parts of the economy and come to the table armed with "jobs and growth" arguments to counter regulatory threats to their members. They are considered authoritative and can lend politicians and lawmakers of their choosing the much sought-after legitimacy of being backed by the business community.

Industry groups across the energy, automotive and industrial sectors remain overwhelmingly negative towards meaningful climate change policy. Seven  of the ten most negatively impactful trade associations on climate policy globally operate in the US. This reflects the extent to which US lobbyists have stoked, harnessed, and guided the Trump Administration's deregulatory agenda to undermine climate policy progress since 2016.

The Importance of Trade Associations in Anti-Climate Lobbying

The first trend is that companies are outsourcing the most negative lobbying to their trade associations as it becomes politically unviable to be directly oppositional. The history of how fossil fuel interests have attempted to undermine the findings of the scientific community has been well documented.

10 Trade associations have played a big part in this. For example, Global Climate Coalition (GCC) (1989–2001) was an international lobby group of businesses, which opposed action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and challenged the science behind global warming; it was initially set by US’s National Association of Manufacturers, with members including the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce, as well as companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and BP. With public concern for climate change growing, however, direct climate-denial tactics have been become increasingly controversial and, as such, marginalized - left primarily to think tanks or dark money groups that do not openly disclose their backers.

InfluenceMap’s research shows, however, that trade associations continue in their attempts to undermine the efforts underway by publicly mandated bodies to act decisively on climate change via a range of alternative tactics. For example, trade associations have consistently and effectively articulated arguments that draw on the economy, rising energy prices and job losses to block climate legislative proposals and regulation. In doing this, they perform an important function for the companies they represent: protecting them from the risk of negative public exposure by putting space between the company’s public brand and the regressive climate policy position.

When successful, this strategy allows heavily polluting companies to retain a green veneer, helped by extensive PR and advertising that emphasises their support for action on climate change, while achieving the policy frameworks needed to delay meaningful action on climate change for as long as possible. This is exampled by recent dynamics between the American Petroleum Institute and its members on US methane regulations. The API has successfully lobbied for a series of rollbacks since 2016. Over this time, board members such as ExxonMobil and BP have given tacit support to the API whilst using PR statements to distance themselves from any negative publicity surrounding the issue. This was first achieved simply by promoting their voluntary methane reductions and, more recently, making statements on how they now disagree with the latest rollbacks proposed by the US EPA. They have not, however, required the API to refrain from lobbying the positions they supposedly disagree with. Ultimately, the trajectory of US methane regulation, driven by API lobbying, has remained the same. The EPA estimates the proposed rollbacks will save the industry $100 million through 2025 in compliance costs. Analysis released in October 2019 has shown that ExxonMobil and BP are among the worst for flaring methane in US oil fields.

The Capture of Powerful Cross-Sector Trade Groups by Fossil Fuel Interests

The second trend concerns the very powerful cross-sector groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, which tend to adopt the lowest common denominator positions on climate of their most oppositional members. Trade associations that represent business or industry as a whole, rather than a segment through representing a specific sector, tend to be particularly influential when it comes to shaping the overall policy agenda of the government. To give one example, research from US-based watchdog, Public Citizen, has found this year that 85% of a list of demands made by the National Association of Manufacturers in 2017 have been granted or are being worked on by the current administration. Cross-sector groups also have the power to talk on behalf of the economy-at-large. The US Chamber of Commerce, for example, is likely the most authoritative voice of American business. In spite of this position, InfluenceMap’s analysis has found NAM and the US Chamber to have consistently pushed some of the most regressive and oppositional positions on climate change policy since 2015.

A recent analysis of over 100 trade associations globally found NAM and the US Chamber to be the first and second on the list of the most influential and negative climate policy lobbyists. It is noted that the US Chamber does not limit itself to direct lobbying activities but also directs its negative climate influence through prolific political spending, despite not disclosing the source of its funding. According to Public Citizen, the US Chamber was the second-largest overall non-disclosing (or “dark money”) spender not directly related to a party in 2016, spending nearly $30 million on congressional races, including $26 million on the Senate.

InfluenceMap’s analysis of the wider corporate landscape shows the US Chamber’s lobbying on climate to be largely misaligned from the positions taken by American’s leading corporations - in other word’s the US Chamber’s membership. The Chamber's climate stances contrasts significantly from those of key members like UPS, Pfizer and Microsoft (a similar pattern holds for NAM). This trend is likely due to a largely informal understanding among corporate members of trade associations to stay silent and allow companies to push their chosen positions when their sector’s key regulatory issues arise, often resulting in the adoption of the most regressive stances of the most active and at-risk members. This highly self-serving attitude has allowed perhaps the most powerful business voices in the US to have been captured by a small majority of vested interests from the fossil fuel sectors, at the direct expense of American business as a whole. In turn, these trade groups have attempted to capture US climate policymaking processes at the expense of a safe and science-based response to the climate crisis, both for US citizens and the world


  1. National Association of Manufacturers (NAM): Over the last two decades, NAM has spent more than $150 million lobbying the Federal Government, and each year, NAM lobbies extensively for the fossil fuel industry. Here are some of the greatest hits of NAM’s fossil fuel lobbying. NAM lobbies to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, and Arctic. NAM advocates for the continued use of coal in the electric power and industrial sectors. NAM lobbies to roll back fuel economy standards that save consumers billions of dollars at the pump. NAM sent what it calls a key vote letter to all Members of Congress urging repeal of a rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining pollution.  NAM urged the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  Finally, NAM opposes any efforts to put a price on carbon pollution. The National Association of Manufacturers rather inexplicably opposes all serious climate action. In particular, it opposes putting a price on carbon emissions. It even funded a debunked study that claimed putting an economy-wide price on carbon would cost millions of jobs. It lobbied for a legislative amendment making it more difficult to begin pricing carbon. NAM opposed cap and trade. NAM opposed the Paris Agreement. NAM sued to stop the Clean Power Plan. NAM supports the climate deniers of the Trump administration. They have no alternative, no better idea, no other way that they want to address the climate crisis; they are just against any serious action on climate change.
  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The US Chamber runs a massive influence machine on behalf of big corporations, touching every part of the federal government. In federal agencies, it lobbies agency officials, files regulatory comments by the dozen, and deploys its public relations machine whenever regulators turn to matters affecting the fossil fuel industry. In courts, the Chamber is in a league of its own. During a three-year period late in the Obama administration, the Chamber filed friend-of-the-court briefs in 476 cases and was a litigant in another 25. Environmental issues were its third most litigated subject, and its position always aligns with polluters. In Congress, the Chamber is the largest lobbyist, spending roughly three times more than the next biggest group. Energy and environmental issues are a big part of that lobbying effort. Every year, the Chamber sends out dozens of letters and key vote alerts telling members which way it expects them to vote. Those letters and alerts inevitably support fossil fuel and oppose reducing emissions.  The Chamber aggressively atacks climate action with the last piece of its machine: election spending. In most congressional election cycles, it is the biggest dark-money spender. The Chamber is known for having sharp political elbows.
  3. American Petroleum Institute (API): The American Petroleum Institute (API)represents the oil and gas industry. API funds a group called the American Council on Capital Formation, which, along with the Chamber of Commerce, funded the debunked study claiming that the Paris Agreement would cause massive job losses and huge costs. This debunked report was cited by President Trump as justification for withdrawing from the Paris accord. So API funded the report used as a basis for withdrawal. Regarding carbon pricing, API’s President has claimed that his organization doesn’t have an official position on carbon pricing, but if you take a look at API’s website, it is loaded with comments critical of putting a price on carbon, and API also funded yet another study claiming that a price on carbon emissions would be bad for the economy. On the issue of methane flaring, API out front led the charge against Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency rules. Big Oil money provides much of API’s power in the Halls of Congress. API has spent over $100 million lobbying the Federal Government, and apparently its lobbying goes against the wishes as stated by its biggest clients, the four oil majors.
  4. American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM): The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) represents the interests of oil refining companies. AFPM fights legislation that could be seen as harming the refining industry, including attempts to regulate greenhouse gases.




Add new comment