The gig is up...someone spilled the beans on Edelman's work for Transcanada on the Energy East pipeline. Documents leaked to Greenpeace and revealed today by the New York Times, Vice Motherboard, Huffington Post, Guardian and others.
It is rare to see so much detail about an ongoing P.R. battle plan. Have a look for yourself...there are about one hundred pages to ponder. Here is a taste that shows this work is nothing new for Edelman or Big Oil.
Here are all the links to the documents, key articles, articles about Edelman and the CIC Climate Survey:
News Articles on Leaked Documents
Huffington Post, Nov. 17, 2014, "Here's What Big Oil Has In The Pipes If Keystone Fails"
New York Times, Nov. 7, 2014, "P.R. Firm Urges TransCanada to Target Opponents of Its Energy East Pipeline"
Globe and Mail, Nov. 17, 2014, "Greenpeace sees 'dirty tricks' in PR Firm's TransCanada Plan"
Canadian Broadcasting Company, Nov. 17, 2014, "Energy East Pipeline 'advocates' Targeted in TransCanada PR Move"
Edelman Campaign Documents for TransCanada Energy East Pipeline
Energy East Research Synthesis, 11 pages
Energy East Grassroots Advocacy Vision Document, May 15, 2014, 20 pages
Energy East Digital Grassroots Advocacy Implementation Plan, May 20, 2014, 19 pages
Energy East Quebec Plan, May 20, 2014, 46 pages
Energy East Campaign Organization: Promote, Respond, Pressure, August 5, 2014, 8 pages
Coverage of Climate Investigations Center Survey and Edelman "Faux Pas"
Climate Investigations Center Survey with links to each PR company's response
The Guardian, Aug. 4, 2014 “World's Top PR Companies Rule Out Working With Climate Deniers”
Vice Motherboard, Aug. 5, 2014 “How the World's Biggest PR Firm Helps Promote Climate Change Denial”
WBEZ radio program Kert Davies debate with Edelman representative Ben Boyd
Richard Edelman ‘6 a.m. blog’, Aug. 7, 2014
The Guardian, Aug. 7, 2014, “Edelman formally declares it will not accept climate denial campaigns”
Vice Motherboard, Aug 12, 2014, "The World's Biggest PR Firm Is In Denial About Its Climate Change Denial"
PR Week, Aug 12, 2014, "Report: Response to climate-change survey led to Hass' departure from Edelman"
Odwyer PR, Aug. 13, 2014 "Edelman Fired Top Exec Over Climate Change Response"
Triple Pundit, August 14, 2014, 'PR Firms Take a Stand on Climate Change"
New York Times, Aug. 17, 2014, “Edelman PR Firm is Take Steps to Address Faux Pas”
The Guardian, Aug. 19, 2014, “Climate changeable: Waffling lands PR firm Edelman in Hot Water”
Ahead of the G-20 meeting in Australia later this week, a new report by an Australian think-tank, convincingly punctures coal industry claims that coal is an essential part of the solution to lack of access of electricity in the developing world.
Zeroing in on Peabody Energy's "Advanced Energy for Life" global public relations campaign, which contends coal-fired power is a cheap, effective way to provide power to the large impoverished areas of India, Pakistan and elsewhere that now have none, the new study by the Australia Institute states that, "Peabody’s only contribution to energy poverty is maintaining a website and social media page which promotes coal as the solution to the problem."
Examining Advanced Energy for Life's claims one by one, the report concludes that while the issue is a serious one, "what Peabody says and what it does about energy poverty are very different."
"Although the company contributes to many charitable causes, it does not donate money, staff time, expertise or discounted fuel to any project that directly alleviates energy poverty," according to the study, entitled, "All Talk and No Action: The Coal Industry and Energy Poverty," which was released last week.
The report contrasts Peabody's behavior with that of other large coal companies - for instance, BHP Billiton, which supports solar projects in Pakistan, and the Indian coaler, Adani, which installed solar-powered street lighting in rural India. Other companies have helped connect poor areas with hydroelectric or gas-fired power.
While serious, sustained, far-reaching electrification efforts exist - most notably the United Nations and World Bank ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ program, which is active in 85 countries - none promote coal use. In fact, not even the coal companies own efforts at alleviating energy poverty employ coal:
"Despite extensive searches and contact with companies and mining lobby groups, we could not find a single example where coal companies have supported coal-powered energy poverty alleviation projects," according to the study, largely because of the enormous up-front costs of building coal-fired power plants and extending the grid out to rural areas. Meanwhile, the cost of generating electricity via renewables such as solar has plummeted to the point where it is competitive with coal.
Equally important, the report found no factual basis for the idea that coal is vital to continued global economic growth, or that it has been in recent times. Since 1980, coal use has grown more slowly than the world economy, resulting in a gap of some $12 trillion between the two. Between 1988 and 2002, in fact, coal use was flat while the global economy remained strong. Most tellingly, recent reductions in the use of coal by developing countries haven't retarded their growth.
And while life expectancy and economic growth can be correlated with coal use, it's not coal that increases life expectancy, despite Peabody's persistent claims, according to statistics examined by the Institute. Both indoor and outdoor pollution caused by coal, not to mention the various impacts of climate change, negate that relationship.
Finally, the report reclarifies Advanced Energy for Life's blurring of the lines between the many different kinds of unhealthy emissions produced by coal. While AEfL likes to lump them all together and pretend that the real reductions by coal-fired power plants in sulfur dioxide, particulates and other pollutants have been matched by decreases in CO2, the Australia Institute's findings reconfirm that when it comes to carbon, "clean coal" is still a pipe dream:
"To make serious reductions in coal-fired power greenhouse emissions, carbon capture and storage is required," the report notes, going on to observe that so far, there are only thirteen CCS projects operating worldwide, which all told are removing only 25 millions ton of carbon dioxide per year, "or less than one tenth of one per cent (0.07 per cent) of the world’s total 33,376 million tonnes of emissions each year."
Five questions reporters might ask Lisa Nelson, ALEC CEO on climate change and energy:
1. YOUR PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE SCIENCE?
Ms. Nelson stated recently, “I don’t know the science" of climate change.
Q: What is your plan to further inform yourself on climate change?
Q: What sources of information will you be seeking and what questions about the science of climate change are you seeking to answer first?
Note: Nelson answered to National Journal “I don't know the science on that" when asked specifically whether human emissions are the primary driver of climate change.
2. ALEC’s POSITION ON CLIMATE CHANGE?
Q: Will you be seeking advise and counsel from ALEC’s Board of Directors, Private Enterprise Advisory Council, Board of Scholars or Private Sector Members to clarify ALEC’s position on climate change in the wake of Google and other recent corporate departures?
Notes: ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling was recently quoted saying ALEC doesn't have a position on climate science anymore than a policy “jelly beans”, a strange analogy for a crucial issue of our times.
Lisa Nelson said on Diane Rehm: “To be clear: ALEC has no policy on climate change, and does not take positions without underlying model policy. "
Yet the organization's September 24th letter to Google stated ALEC “Recognizes that climate change is an important issue...”
However, the ALEC website is more direct, yet equivocal, on the scientific evidence for pollution-induced climate change. We would clearly categorize this stance as climate denial:
“Global Climate Change is Inevitable. Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions.”
Q: Which one is it?
3. ALEC SPONSORS CONTROL OF MEETING AGENDA?
There are many events (luncheons, workshops, etc.) held during ALEC conferences.
Q: How much control do sponsors have over session topics and speaker selection? Have the Heartland Institute or CFACT indeed paid ALEC to hold sessions about climate change during your meetings? Or did ALEC request that they hold these briefings?
4. BALANCED “EXCHANGE” ON CLIMATE SCIENCE?
ALEC stated in its September 24th Letter to Google that it “just hosted a roundtable conversation for a variety of companies—including Google—on this very issue.”
Q: Will you provide evidence of this “roundtable” and what companies were present?
Note: There was a Presentation by Michael Terrell of Google on the IT sector's renewable energy goals within the meeting Energy Subcommittee (of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force) on July 30, 2014 at the ALEC annual meeting. This Google presentation was specifically titled "How Technology Companies Use Energy to Power Data Centers" and covered Google's (and other IT companies') renewable energy goals and business plans, not the subject of climate change.
Here is a snapshot of the Energy Subcommittee Agenda:
5. ALEC OPPOSITION TO SUBSIDIES FOR FOSSIL FUELS AND NUCLEAR ENERGY?
ALEC maintains positions against government mandates and subsidies which backstop the organizations opposition to renewable energy targets.
Q: Given ALEC’s emphasis on free markets and subsidies, does the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force plan to pass model legislation limiting fossil fuel and nuclear energy subsidies and corporate welfare?
by Dan Zegart, author of Civil Warriors
I remember when it was tobacco that desperately needed an emergency public relations rescue, the way fossil fuels do now.
There are certain kinds of companies you don't want to get caught representing, as illustrated by the flap over Edelman Worldwide's tortured responses to the Climate Investigations Center's survey about whether it acknowledges the threat of climate change or would represent companies that deny climate change.
Unfortunately, the client's need for public relations increases in direct proportion to its public toxicity. And the greater the need, the more they'll pay. And PR firms are the beneficiaries.
All of which is why, of the twenty-five largest PR firms that received the Climate Investigations Center's questionnaire, sixteen - and every one of the top ten firms - worked for Big Tobacco at one time or another. (see Tobacco Roots below with list of companies)
A trip through documents unearthed during lawsuits by the state attorneys general against the cigarette makers demonstrates the immense range of Big PR's involvement with the tobacco industry, from handling publicity for the cigarette-funded Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament to creating front organizations to pass laws making it harder for sick smokers to sue the industry.
I don't remember that I ever asked the PR firms representing tobacco whether they believed it hadn't been proven cigarette smoking was addictive and caused cancer, but that was Big Tobacco's position when I started covering them in 1994. By 2000, when I published my book on the "cigarette wars" between the industry and its various antagonists - particularly plaintiff's lawyers - they had finally admitted the truth.
Remember when you wished you could take that Chemistry 101 final again...not often you have a teacher willing to accept a do-over.
Edelman took the opportunity to rewrite its answers to our April climate survey this week. This after giving CIC one line somewhat incomplete answers to our April survey and after the now ex-CEO told his staff they need not respond to our four (quite straightforward) questions and also told them, "there are only wrong answers for this guy".
Out of fairness, we invite all the companies we surveyed to re-submit their own more complete answers as well.
Below are Edelman's new answers to our climate questions, in full, as sent by Ben Boyd (I redacted Ben's phone numbers as a courtesy):
I appreciated the opportunity to connect with you yesterday on the WBEZ program regarding your survey and The Guardian piece. As you can imagine, we welcomed the chance to clarify our position and also appreciated today’s update by The Guardian, including your statement.
As I conveyed on-air, you have my apology that your initial request for answers to your survey was so mismanaged by our firm. Completely unacceptable.
While we have certainly passed your deadline, I would like to resubmit our answer to the CIC Survey for your consideration:
- Does your company acknowledge the threat and challenge of climate change as companies like Walmart, Coca Cola, Apple, Google, AIG, Swiss Re, NRG, Unilever and others have done?
Yes. Edelman fully recognizes the reality of, and science behind, climate change, and believes it represents one of the most important global challenges facing society, business and government today. To be clear, we do not accept client assignments that aim to deny climate change.
We believe that business, government and society must work together to address climate change by balancing the interdependent priorities of human development, the environment and the global economy. As such, we support our clients’ efforts to reduce emissions from their operations, improve energy efficiency, advance alternative fuels and sustainable energy solutions and lead in the transition to sustainable and socially responsible business models. We also work with clients to constructively participate in the dialogue around climate change and contribute to policy discussions, with the goal of making progress on this shared global challenge.
- Does your company have any internal carbon accounting policies or energy use reduction targets? Have you taken actions to reduce your “carbon footprint”?
As a firm we are determined to reduce emissions and foster an employee culture of sustainability. We hold ourselves accountable to reduce our carbon footprint at every Edelman office around the world.
We have taken proactive steps to reduce our GHG emissions through document management, lighting efficiency, videoconferencing, local “green” citizenship teams, and global E-waste recycling.
We track and report on the progress of these policies through our global citizenship dashboard. Each of the 65 offices in the Edelman network receives a customized dashboard about their specific progress toward these goals and is accountable for the continued progress and improvements made in their office. Our progress toward these goals will be reported annually in our global citizenship report, the latest of which will be released in October 2014.
- Does your company have an internal Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy regarding climate change or the environment generally?
Yes, Edelman has a Global Environmental Policy.
- Has your agency advised any client corporations on communications around CSR programs with a specific climate change focus, or on other climate change related public relations efforts?
Yes. Edelman provides counsel to a range of clients across many industries, including counsel on CSR programs and on key issues such as climate change.
If you would like to discuss these answers or if I can be of further help to you, I would welcome the chance to speak. My mobile number is
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