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New report sheds light on concerning practice among major lobbying groups: 'A kind of shield from scrutiny'

Oversight surrounding conflicts of interest within lobbying groups is lacking.

Oversight surrounding conflicts of interest within lobbying groups is lacking.

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A new report revealed that many lobby groups in New York are working as double agents, representing clients with competing interests in the climate crisis, The Guardian reported.

What happened?

Climate action group F Minus looked at the client rosters of six of the top lobbying firms in New York and found that they were simultaneously representing dirty energy companies and institutions that are working to fight against climate change

For instance, New York University has pledged to divest its $5 billion endowment from oil, gas, and coal companies. However, it utilizes the same lobbyists as six dirty energy companies, including Valero. Nonprofit Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and the New York Museum are also caught in the same conundrum.

However, the problem is not confined to New York. Nationally, 1,500 lobbyists are working for dirty energy companies while also representing Democratic cities, universities, and tech behemoths like Google, the latter of which has touted its environmental initiatives.

Why is this report concerning?

While these groups aren't actively supporting the dirty fuel industry, James Browning, executive director of F Minus, said they are still "aiding and abetting" the climate crisis.

"If lobbyists only worked with fossil fuel clients, it would be much easier for lawmakers in Albany to dismiss them, close the door, and not return any of their calls," Browning told The Guardian. "But because they have all these prestigious clients, clients that are a huge part of New York's economy, it lends these lobbyists a kind of shield from scrutiny."

This is concerning, as the dirty energy sector is by far the biggest contributor to our warming planet, accounting for more than 75% of all greenhouse gas pollution, according to the United Nations. As global temperatures rise, we can expect an increase in severe storms, droughts, sea-level rises, species loss, food shortages, and other health concerns, the organization warns.

We are already getting a preview of many of the unfortunate consequences of rising global temperatures. For instance, southern Africa is facing a major food shortage after drought coupled with several bouts of severe weather devastated crops in the region. Meanwhile, a persistent lack of precipitation in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park has led to the death of 160 elephants

What's being done about dirty energy companies' influence?

Oversight surrounding conflicts of interest within lobbying groups is lacking, according to Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, who spoke with The Guardian. Muffet said that this means that groups like NYU need to investigate who their lobbyists work for. 

You can do your part by lessening your dependence on dirty energy. One place to start is changing the way you get around — try walking, cycling, or using public transportation when possible. Also, make sure to vote for politicians who will take a stand on climate issues.

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