Professor Anna Gilmore, Director of the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group and Co-director of the Centre for 21st Century Public Health, recently presented to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI) at its hearing on ‘The responsibilities of fossil fuel companies in the cost of living crisis’.

The hearing addressed the responsibilities that fossil fuel companies bear in the cost of living crisis and energy poverty in the EU. It was held following an appeal from organisations in the Fossil Free Politics coalition, who are also calling for restrictions on fossil fuel lobbying.

Anna was invited as an expert on the activities of the tobacco industry and on the regulations used to protect policy from corporate influence. Anna was joined by experts on political economy and energy poverty.

Research has shown that the fossil fuel industry uses the same lobbying, PR and science tactics as the tobacco industry to avoid regulation and shape policies in their interests. Research has also shown that fossil fuel companies and tobacco companies have worked together to shape approaches to policy-making in the EU to make it harder to pass environmental and public health protections.

Gilmore highlighted that the Commission’s response to energy poverty and the climate crisis has systematically favoured the fossil fuel industry. She drew attention to the fact that the Commission set up a group comprised of only gas industry executives to advise on how to reduce the EU’s dependency on gas:

Think about that in governance terms - a group of industry executives who depend at least in part on profits from gas being asked to figure out how to decrease dependence on gas.' Anna said.

It is like asking the tobacco industry to advise on reducing tobacco use - you would never get good advice because there is a clear conflict of interest.

To begin her session, Anna explained the background to the rules that protect public health policymaking from interference by the tobacco industry. These rules were put in place due to evidence of the industry’s past misconduct.

Anna highlighted that there was similar evidence of the fossil fuel industry’s misconduct and rules like those placed upon the tobacco industry therefore need to be implemented to prevent the fossil fuel industry's influence on climate and energy policy.

We need to stop ignoring the elephant in the room – the evidence that fossil fuel companies engage in the same practices as tobacco companies. We need an Article 5.3 (firewall against the tobacco lobby) for the fossil fuel industry to help ensure genuinely good governance, not ‘good governance’ as defined by the industry lobby.

In line with Article 5.3, Anna recommended introducing rules around the following, highlighting that these are simply good practice:

  • limiting interactions with the industry and ensuring transparency of any necessary interactions;
  • rejecting partnerships and agreements with the industry;
  • avoiding conflicts of interest for government officials and employees; and
  • not giving preferential treatment to the industry.

As Anna said to end her session, introducing tobacco-control style regulations for the fossil fuel industry would be a step in the right direction to ensuring policy-making operates in the public interest.