A detailed and disturbing strategy document has revealed an extraordinary American plan to destroy Europe's support for the Kyoto treaty on climate change.
The ambitious, behind-the-scenes plan was passed to The Independent this week, just as 189 countries are painfully trying to agree the second stage of Kyoto at the UN climate conference in Montreal. It was pitched to companies such as Ford Europe, Lufthansa and the German utility giant RWE.
Put together by a lobbyist who is a senior official at a group partly funded by ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company and a fierce opponent of anti-global warming measures, the plan seeks to draw together major international companies, academics, think-tanks, commentators, journalists and lobbyists from across Europe into a powerful grouping to destroy further EU support for the treaty.
It details just how the so-called "European Sound Climate Policy Coalition" would work. Based in Brussels, the plan would have anti-Kyoto position papers, expert spokesmen, detailed advice and networking instantly available to any politician or company who wanted to question the wisdom of proceeding with Kyoto and its demanding cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
It has been drawn up by Chris Horner, a senior official with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute and a veteran campaigner against Kyoto and against the evidence of climate change. One of his colleagues who describes himself as an adviser to President George Bush was the subject of a censure motion by the Commons last year after he attacked the Government's chief scientist.
Mr Horner, whose CEI group has received almost $1.5m (£865,000) from ExxonMobil, is convinced that Europe could be successfully influenced by such a policy coalition just as the US government has been.
He thinks Europe's weakening economies are likely to be increasingly ill at ease with the costs of meeting Kyoto. And in particular, he has spotted something he thinks most of Europe has not yet woken up to. Most of the original 15 EU Kyoto signatories Britain is an exception are on course to miss their 2010 CO2 reduction targets. But under the terms of the treaty, they will face large fines for doing so, in terms of much bigger reduction targets in any second phase.
These will prove unacceptably costly to their economies, Mr Horner believes, even if they try to buy their way out by buying up "spare" emissions for cash from countries such as Russia. Mr Horner believes the moment for his coalition is at hand and has been seeking support for it from multinational companies. In his pitch to one major company, he wrote: " In the US an informal coalition has helped successfully to avert adoption of a Kyoto-style programme by maintaining a rational voice for civil society and ensuring a legitimate debate over climate economics, science and politics. This model should be emulated... to guide similar efforts in Europe."
Elsewhere he claimed: "A coalition addressing the economic and social impacts of the EU climate agenda must be broad-based (cross industry) and rooted in the member states. Other companies (including Lufthansa, Exxon, Ford) have already indicated their interest!"
Last night green groups hit out. Kert Davies, Greenpeace's climate campaign co-ordinator, which initially obtained the documents, said: "These are the hitmen for the Bush administration and the likes of Exxon. They are behind the scenes doing the dirty work. They are extending efforts to Europe where they are trying to undermine the momentum to solve global warming."
While there is nothing illegal about the lobbying, the documents reveal a rare insight into the well-funded efforts within the US to influence opinion at senior levels of European corporations. Campaigners say the campaign is similar to a notorious lobbying effort carried out during the 1990s to undermine support for Kyoto within the US.
The revelation comes as international negotiators in Montreal are discussing the next step within Kyoto and the possibility of introducing new emissions targets. The Bush administration which has rejected the treaty has insisted it will not agree to any measures that legally bind it to reduce emissions. Mr Horner has been present this week in Montreal.
When contacted by The Independent, Mr Horner confirmed the strategy document was the draft of a presentation he sent to RWE. He defended his lobbying effort saying "that is what I do". He said he simply promoted a point of view, as did Greenpeace. "I don't begrudge them what they do [but] they begrudge me what I do," he said.
Asked if he thought it was appropriate for a major American oil company to be funding a lobbyist targeting European companies, he replied: " Everybody else does." But Mr Horner, who is also a senior figure within the Cool Heads Coalition, a group that questions the evidence of global warming and opposes any policies to "ration" energy, claimed his efforts to influence opinion in Europe had been unsuccessful. He said RWE had not taken up the suggestions contained within his presentation, and that other companies had also rejected his ideas.
"I don't know why it's surprising [I have lobbied European companies]," he said. "What is surprising to me is why it's not working." Ford and RWE confirmed that they and other companies had met Mr Horner and other advocates in Brussels last February. He had not been paid any fee nor had they contributed to his expenses. Mr Horner apparently travelled to Europe at the request of the European Enterprise Industry, a fledgling group hoping to emulate the CEI.
Bill McAndrews, a spokesman for RWE, said: "He met with [us and] other German companies in Brussels. Brussels is the EU capital, there are a lot of people who come to meet. We have not approached him since then." He added: "RWE talks to all sorts of people. We talk with Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. We discuss matters with all opinions. It's important to hear everybody's side on such a global issue. It does not mean that RWE shares that opinion."
In a statement, ExxonMobil, said: "The notion adopted by some groups ... that only their views and only their funding and lobbying are acceptable is, in our opinion, not helpful to the debates vital to developing good public policy."
Adrian Schmitt, a spokesman for Ford Europe, said Mr Horner had met with company representatives on one occasion "at a Brussels level". He insisted that Ford had not supported Mr Horner's opinions. "Exactly the opposite. Our position is that climate change is a serious issue and appropriate steps need to be taken now."
He said that the company had been one of the first companies to withdraw its support for the Global Climate Coalition a now-defunct lobbying effort that worked to oppose US reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the late Nineties.