EU NGOs to boycott media events sponsored by fossil fuel firms

Sixteen European civil society organizations said Thursday they would no longer attend media events sponsored by fossil fuel companies and hosted by POLITICO Europe, the Financial Times or Euractiv.

The fossil fuel industry is “buying a platform to gain credibility and undue influence” through such sponsorships, the organizations wrote in a joint letter to the media organizations.

POLITICO regularly hosts events on EU policy, and some have been sponsored by firms such as oil giant Shell. 

The NGOs — which include Corporate Europe Observatory, the European Federation of Public Service Unions, Greenpeace and Transport & Environment, among others — are calling on the three media outlets to drop fossil fuel firms as sponsors. 

But they are also lobbying policymakers not to attend events sponsored by such companies, said Lala Hakuma Dadci of Fossil Free Politics, a coalition of campaign groups that coordinated the statement. 

“We call on media to stop this practice — but also on policymakers not to participate when invited,” she said. “As the fossil fuel industry is responsible for a large part of the climate crisis, they don’t have any space in today’s debate. It’s a conflict of interest.” 

The three outlets named in the letter, she added, were chosen because they had recently hosted events related to EU climate or energy policy, sponsored by fossil fuel companies. 

Pascoe Sabido, a campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, said the letter was part of a broader effort to construct a “firewall” between EU policymakers and the fossil fuel industry, given what he called the “irreconcilable conflict of interest.” 

The NGOs’ complaint is not about the content being produced by the media outlets, Sabido added. “It’s about who can afford a voice. The fossil fuel industry is buying itself a voice, buying itself legitimacy — we need to take that away if we want to tackle the climate crisis.” 

German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer said he was not aware of having previously attended any events funded by fossil fuel firms. “But if such sponsorship has actually occurred at POLITICO, I will specifically ask about it in the future. And cancel if necessary.”

A spokesperson for POLITICO Europe stressed that event sponsors have no influence on the organization’s editorial content and that “the objectivity, independence and integrity applied to our coverage … also apply to our POLITICO Live events.” 

They added that the company is “neither judge nor jury” on policy debates and does not endorse “causes or entities.”

The NGOs’ decision not to participate in events is “their prerogative,” the spokesperson said, but added that it was “a pity that they would choose not to represent their point of view” and expressed hope they would reconsider.

Euractiv and the Financial Times had not responded to requests for comment as of Wednesday evening. 

A spokesperson for Shell, which sponsors a series of energy policy events hosted by POLITICO Europe, said in response to the letter that the company “advocates for an enabling EU policy framework to accelerate the deployment of low carbon technologies needed to meet the EU’s climate targets,” and added that the event series “aims to provide a platform for dialogue on the EU’s transition to climate neutrality among all stakeholders.”

Scrutiny of news organizations’ fossil fuel industry-linked revenue has been growing both in Europe and the United States. 

Earlier this year, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness decided to boycott a Financial Times event sponsored by Uniper, as the energy company was suing the Dutch government over the country’s planned coal phaseout. 

In the United States, campaigners are trying to pressure the New York Times to drop fossil fuel advertising. 

A handful of news outlets, like the Guardian, have decided to no longer accept money from fossil fuel firms. 

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