Multinational Monitor

MAR/APR 2009
VOL 30 No. 2


A New Life for the IMF: Capitalizing on Crisis
by Robert Weissman


Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle
an interview with Peter Montague

A Carbon-Free Future
an interview with Arjun Makhijani

Green Stimulus
an interview with Robert Pollin

The Green Chemistry Revolution
an interview with Paul Anastas

A Bias to the Local: The Subsidiarity Principle
an interview with Jerry Mander


Behind the Lines

Big Ideas to Save the Planet

The Front
Global Job Meltdown - Prosecution Prognosis

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

The Greenhouse Gas Lobby

Hoards of industry lobbyists are on Capitol Hill, trying to cool off momentum around global warming legislation. There are more than 600 lobbyists focused on climate change from manufacturing companies alone, not counting heavyweights like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, according to a February report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Overall, more than 770 companies and interest groups hired 2,340 lobbyists to work on climate change, spending more than $90 million in 2008, according to estimates by the Center for Public Integrity. This total includes environmental groups.

These numbers show "how much money is pouring into Washington on the issue of climate change," says Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. "What's also clear is how difficult it will be for the Obama Administration to get meaningful climate change legislation through Congress in the face of such an enormous lobbying push by so many special interests."

The number of lobbyists looking to shape climate change policy has grown more than 300 percent in five years. Finance, insurance and investment firms, which had almost no climate change lobbyists in 2003, now have as many lobbyists as alternative energy firms, as they look to influence decisions on market-based cap-and-trade policies. Cities, counties and public agencies have more than 100 lobbyists on the Hill now, up from just a handful in 2003, focusing on how Congress will distribute climate change funds.

Environmental, health and alternative energy lobbyists have increased their numbers as well, although they are still outnumbered by industry and other interests by 8-to-1.

NZ Bad Actor

Blowing away British American Tobacco's smokescreen of corporate responsibility, the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) named the tobacco giant's New Zealand subsidiary the winner of the 2008 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation. Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand.

"Its product kills 5,000 people [in New Zealand] every year and ruins the lives of tens of thousands. It perennially refuses to take responsibility for the social and economic consequences of its activity, while maintaining a major public relations effort to subvert the efforts of the government to reduce cigarette consumption," CAFCA says of British American Tobacco NZ (BAT NZ).

The Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation is an annual award sponsored by CAFCA and GATT Watchdog, aiming to single out the multinational corporation that has the most harmful social and environmental impact.

"In line with the actions and strategies pursued by its parent company, BAT (NZ) is also involved in actively targeting and marketing its products toward the poorer sections of the community, lobbying to reduce restrictions that prohibit it plying its trade and using middlemen to promote its product, while it stays safely in the background," state the Roger Award judges.

CAFCA reports that BAT NZ concentrates its marketing on youth and New Zealand's indigenous groups, like the Maori. Death rates from lung cancer among the Maori reflect this targeting. ASH New Zealand estimates that a third of the cancer deaths among Maori are from lung cancer - nearly four times the rate of the general population.

BAT NZ had no comment on the award.

Previous Roger Award winners include Telecom, Progressive Enterprises and Monsanto.

Kleaning Up Kleenex

Fourteen colleges and universities have cleaned out their supplies of Kleenex, vowing to stop stocking the product by Kimberly-Clark because the tissues are made from clearcut forests. Purchase College and Principia College became the most recent colleges to make the move when they removed all Kimberly-Clark products from their bookstores in February and March.

Greenpeace started the "Kleercut" campaign on university campuses across the United States because of concerns about Kimberly-Clark's use of wood fiber from clearcut forests - including the endangered North American Boreal forest - and low use of post-consumer recycled content.

"Kimberly Clark is the biggest tissue manufacturer in the world. Overall, they are one of the nastiest in terms of environmental practices," says Robin Averbeck, student network coordinator for Greenpeace. "When you look at their flagship brand, Kleenex, they are using absolutely no recycled content. It is made of 100 percent virgin fiber, a lot of which is coming from ancient forests like the Boreal in North America."

Kimberly-Clark did not return requests for comment.

The Kleercut campaign is encouraging consumers to use products like Whole Foods' 365 brand or Seventh Generation, which use about 80 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.

Other colleges and universities that have participated in the Kleercut campaign by removing Kimberly-Clark products from their campuses include Harvard University, University of Miami, Rice University, American University, Wesleyan University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Vermont, University of Florida and Northern Arizona University.

"Universities are helping to lead the way in the green movement," Averbeck says.

Unionization Uptick

Bucking a long-running trend, more U.S. workers joined labor unions in 2008, according to an annual union membership report released in January by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unionized workers rose to 12.4 percent of employed wage and salary workers, up from 12.1 percent.

"The big story here is that it's a statistically significant increase in union membership, which is probably the first time that's ever happened" in the last quarter century, says Ben Zipperer, senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The bulk of the gains were in public sector unions, which saw membership grow from 35.9 percent to 36.8 percent, with gains largely in local and state government. In the private sector, even though overall employment rates declined in 2008, unionization rose from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent, with membership gains in education, health and hospitality services.

"It's a lot easier for workers to unionize in the public sector; the private sector is generally more hostile toward unions," Zipperer says. "One, there's a profit motive there and so they're always looking to cut costs. Just by that very incentive they're going to be hostile to anything that raises compensation for workers. Two, it's a lot easier in the private sector to fire workers."

Given the amount of job losses in the past year and the current economic climate, Zipperer says, these gains are especially significant.

"I don't think anyone was expecting these numbers," he says. "It's very surprising that unions would be doing well in that kind of environment. That's never happened before."

Hot Money

Two U.S. agencies agreed in February to address the global warming implications of their international financing projects.

The policy about-face follows from the settlement of a lawsuit, brought by the environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and the city of Boulder, Colorado. The suit, filed in 2002, alleged that the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) illegally funded more than $32 billion in fossil fuel projects overseas without making global warming and environmental impact assessments, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The California cities of Arcata, Santa Monica and Oakland later joined the suit.

Projects financed by the two organizations from 1990 to 2003 produced cumulative emissions that equal nearly 8 percent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to the suit.

"What we were able to say in this case is that even though these projects - like oil pipelines in Africa and Latin America - are happening outside the United States, the emissions that are created still have greenhouse gas impacts that can be felt at home," says Michelle Chan, senior policy analyst for Friends of the Earth.

The case set an important legal precedent when a California judge in 2005 ruled that the environmental groups had legal standing, meaning that they could bring suit because they have a direct stake in the case.

"This became the first lawsuit to open the courthouse doors to those plaintiffs that were claiming economic and environmental injury due to climate change," Chan says.

Also legally significant, both OPIC and Ex-Im Bank in the settlement agreed to a definition of renewable energies that excluded large-scale hydro dams, nuclear power and large-scale biofuels.

The settlement, six years in the making, requires Ex-Im Bank to begin taking carbon dioxide emissions into account when evaluating fossil fuel projects, and develop a carbon policy for the agency.

OPIC is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with its projects by 20 percent over the next decade. The two organizations are required to devote a combined total of $500 million to renewable energy projects.

"We are pleased with the settlement," says Phil Cogan, director for public affairs at Ex-Im Bank. "We think it's in the best interests of Ex-Im Bank, and it's in the best interest of the U.S. taxpayers because we think it reflects a productive and cooperative approach to addressing the issues of climate change within the overall context of our mission."

Representatives from OPIC did not respond to requests for comment.

- Jennifer Wedekind


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