President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto
global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's
most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department
papers seen by the Guardian.
The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White House for discussions
on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions
of how close the company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate
In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary of state,
Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking
Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping
to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate
change policies the company might find acceptable.
Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon executives and
other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.
Until now Exxon has publicly maintained that it had no involvement in the US
government's rejection of Kyoto. But the documents, obtained by Greenpeace under
US freedom of information legislation, suggest this is not the case.
"Potus [president of the United States] rejected Kyoto in part based on
input from you [the Global Climate Coalition]," says one briefing note
before Ms Dobriansky's meeting with the GCC, the main anti-Kyoto US industry
group, which was dominated by Exxon.
The papers further state that the White House considered Exxon "among
the companies most actively and prominently opposed to binding approaches [like
Kyoto] to cut greenhouse gas emissions".
But in evidence to the UK House of Lords science and technology committee in
2003, Exxon's head of public affairs, Nick Thomas, said: "I think we can
say categorically we have not campaigned with the United States government or
any other government to take any sort of position over Kyoto."
Exxon, officially the US's most valuable company valued at $379bn (£206bn)
earlier this year, is seen in the papers to share the White House's unwavering
scepticism of international efforts to address climate change.
The documents, which reflect unanimity between the company and the US administration
on the need for more global warming science and the unacceptable costs of Kyoto,
state that Exxon believes that joining Kyoto "would be unjustifiably drastic
This line has been taken consistently by President Bush, and was expected to
be continued in yesterday's talks with Tony Blair who has said that climate
change is "the most pressing issue facing mankind".
"President Bush tells Mr Blair he's concerned about climate change, but
these documents reveal the alarming truth, that policy in this White House is
being written by the world's most powerful oil company. This administration's
climate policy is a menace to humanity," said Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's
executive director in London last night.
"The prime minister needs to tell Mr Bush he's calling in some favours.
Only by securing mandatory cuts in US emissions can Blair live up to his rhetoric,"
said Mr Tindale.
In other meetings documented in the papers, Ms Dobriansky meets Don Pearlman,
an international anti-Kyoto lobbyist who has been a paid adviser to the Saudi
and Kuwaiti governments, both of which have followed the US line against Kyoto.
The purpose of the meeting with Mr Pearlman, who also represents the secretive
anti-Kyoto Climate Council, which the administration says "works against
most US government efforts to address climate change", is said to be to
"solicit [his] views as part of our dialogue with friends and allies".
ExxonMobil, which was yesterday contacted by the Guardian in the US but did
not return calls, is spending millions of pounds on an advertising campaign
aimed at influencing politicians, opinion formers and business leaders in the
UK and other pro-Kyoto countries in the weeks before the G8 meeting at Gleneagles.