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A Special Report by





founded in 1993, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, global research and educational center composed of leading activists, authors, economists, and scholars providing critical analyses of the cultural, social, political and ecological impacts of economic globalization.


VICTOR MENOTTI – Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization, author of the IFG report, “Free Trade, Free Logging: How the World Trade Organization Undermines Global Forest Conservation,” the chapter “WTO and Native Sovereignty” in Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization.

JACK SANTA BARBARA – IFG Board Member, Director of the Sustainable Scale Project, member of Transcend, Associate of the Centre for Peace Studies TONY CLARKE – IFG Board Member, Director of the Polaris Institute, vice-chair of the council of Canadians, board member of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, author of Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water.

Dr. VANDANA SHIVA – IFG Board Member, Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, author of Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in a Age of Climate Crisis, and Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.

Dr. DALE WEN – IFG China Scholar, advisor for the Rural China Education Foundation


We would like to give our great appreciation and thanks to the

following individuals who made this report possible:

Anju Palta, Kourosh Behnam, Jerry Mander, Lilly Alvarez, Jivaka Candappa, Anuradtha Mittal, Gar Smith, Eileen Hazel, and Bing Gong.


1009 General Kennedy Avenue, #2 San Francisco, CA 94129 USA Phone: +1-415-561-7650 | Email: ifg@ifg.org | Website: www.ifg.org  













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Why “Outing the Oligarchy” The purpose of this report is to call public attention to the ultra-rich individuals who benefit most from—and are most responsible for—the deepening climate crisis that is destabilizing global ecosystems and devastating the lives of the planet's most vulnerable peoples. Today’s single biggest threat to our global climate commons is the group of billionaires who profit most from its pollution and, in turn, push government policies that promote more fossil fuels.

IFG is releasing this report as two important global debates intensify, yet the links between them are rarely drawn. The report aims to connect some of the dots that show a pattern of power relationships dominating both deadlocked debates which together could help illuminate ways forward for change on all fronts.

Globalization has shifted financial wealth and political power upward to a group of Ultra High Net-Worth Individuals, so “Outing the Oligarchy” aims to inform both the climate community and the Occupy movement by “following the money” to the very top.

The first debate is in the drive for an urgently needed global climate deal in Durban, South Africa, under the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change’s COP 17, which is currently at an impasse due to the United States’ having no national mandate to conclude a multilateral agreement since its Congress is so severely corrupted by corporations and capitalists who profit from fossil fuels. Yet the role of the energy oligarchs in the current impasse is all but invisible, even as they play one government against another to hold the entire world hostage to a dead-end addiction to fossil fuels. As a result, President Obama’s climate negotiators are not only running away from their responsibilities as official talks resume but they are leading an unbelievable and unnecessary backtracking from core commitments in the climate Convention made by previous presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and George W. Bush.

The second debate—ignited by the Occupy Wall Street movement—revolves around the power of private wealth and its corruption of governments. In the U.S., where financial fraud has further enriched a few big banks and billionaires (while robbing millions of Americans of their savings, jobs and homes), citizens are incensed by Washington's rush to bail out corporations and capitalists deemed "to big to fail." As Occupy movement energy shifts to new strategies after its eviction from public spaces, there is a need to align global activists’ attention around those at the very top who benefit most from, and are therefore most responsible for, today’s converging global crises in finance, food, fuel, and other areas. Within the “one percent” is a global elite whose wealth and power uniquely positions them to either be part of the problem or part of the solution, and all of humanity is needed to help peacefully persuade these people in power to democratically transition today’s crises into genuine justice and sustainability.

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Occupy and Oligarchy Critical discussion of the influence of the fossil fuels oligarchs has long been missing from the debate, despite the decisive role these individuals and their companies have played in both creating the crisis and blocking solutions that could usher in an economic recovery—one based on clean energy security, with green jobs for hi-tech design engineers, rust-belt workers and inner-city communities of color.

Despite the urgent need for new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is little promise for meaningful progress until we address today’s extreme concentrations of wealth and power that have corrupted any prospect of democratic decision-making. Climate negotiators know that they are not calling the shots; rather, they are all restrained by political pressure from the very people who profit most from polluting our planet.

It is our hope that this report results in increased scrutiny of these wealthy individuals—with attention focused on their massive investments in fossil fuel assets and, especially in the case of the United States, their financing of political activities that undermine democracy in the pursuit of short-term profits. In a desperate attempt to wring out the last dregs of fossil-fuel profit from a depleted planet, the oligarchs of gas, coal and oil are pushing the limits by resorting to increasingly costly, dirty and risky forms of exploitation—from tar sands and "fracking" to mountaintop removal and deep-sea drilling. Cooperative global action to address the most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced is being held hostage by a handful of profiteers who wield decisive power over our governments.

Why are billionaires spending their wealth to block the phasing out of fossil fuels?? Because they have billions of accumulated assets and future profits at risk; spending a few hundred million to obfuscate science and obstruct policy change is a cheap investment compared to what they could lose if climate action advances.

“Oligarchy,” is a term rarely heard in political debates in democracies, has recently become useful in explaining the power dynamics that drive current decision-making. While we often think of oligarchs as corrupt kings from a bygone age, it is now an accurate and appropriate term to describe today’s political reality of “rule by the rich.” According to Dr. Jeffrey Winters, author of the 2011 book, Oligarchy, wealth in the U.S. today remains "two times as concentrated as imperial Rome, which was a slave-and-farmer society.

That's how huge the gap is." In addition, there have been no real income gains for the average American household since 1970.1 “Outing the Oligarchy” is the first in a series of planned reports, online communications tools, public education events and strategy sessions that comprise IFG's new Wealth and Power Program, which is designed to call public attention to the Ultra-High Net-Worth Individuals who dominate today’s economic system and profit from its unacceptable exploitation of people and the planet.

Why Now

IFG initiated this report after spending three years engaged in intensive efforts with grassroots groups and like-minded governments worldwide to shape a progressive U.S. approach to the UN Climate Convention— one that guarantees the concerns of poor countries and communities are incorporated into the outcome of any global climate deal.

-2INDIVIDUALS OF UNDUE INFLUENCE — Unfortunately, while the 2010 Cancun Agreements produced some small steps that could potentially protect people in the Global South (including establishing accountable mechanisms for financial flows and technology transfer and as well as new protocols to protect Indigenous rights), many of Cancun's promises have yet to be delivered. Meanwhile, the world moved several steps backward when the Cancun summit adopted the Obama Administration's proposal to make carbon-emission reductions "voluntary," thereby undermining the core purpose of the convention. The world had been waiting for the U.S. to join the global community in committing to cut its carbon emissions. Instead, all governments (with the exception of Bolivia) agreed to let each other off the hook by effectively allowing everyone’s emissions to rise.

Despite having elected a president who pledged to “protect the planet in peril” and a congressional leadership that seemed committed to act, it was not enough to counter the influence of fossil fuels billionaires like David and Charles Koch, whose political contributions to defeat climate legislation are believed to have exceeded those of the American Petroleum Institute (Big Oil’s own lobbying group) and Exxon (the country's largest oil company). The fact that the U.S. could not deliver politically on its “fair share” of a global agreement should force climate campaigners to deal more directly with the well-financed forces favoring fossil fuels. By “following the money,” IFG’s research into the real roadblocks to progress reveals sophisticated “influence networks” financed largely by a few billionaires at the very top of the fossil fuels empire.

What’s in this Report

Our report begins by profiling some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, chosen for their: 1) ranking on Forbes' list of the World's Billionaires; 2) investments and holdings in fossil fuels; and 3) influence networks that block the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy alternatives. See more below on our methodology.

Our report ends with an original essay, “Four Arguments Against Extreme Concentration of Wealth,” that examines some of the most common reasons why people accept these shadowy oligarchs as the arbiters of our lives. Read this report if you think people with fabulous wealth deserve it because they simply "worked harder" or "were smarter" than their competitors. Countering such misconceptions is essential to puncturing their legitimacy. Beyond blasting the billionaires, it also shows ways forward with a series of steps to tackle the systemic issues driving both economic inequality and ecological unsustainability.

Make No Mistake Who is Most Responsible

Although we use a global list, our intended audience is primarily American. That's because the global climate crises—just like today's converging global crises in finance, food, water and other areas—is blocked by Washington and a political system corrupted and controlled by the ultra-rich.

True, an increasing number of wealthy Americans now understand the climate crisis to be quite real and many are moving their money because they see promising business opportunities, but these investments are overshadowed by the billionaire Koch Brothers, whose combined wealth ($50B) makes the third richest in the world after Carlos Slim and Bill Gates. The Kochs have spent millions over the past 30 years to build a sophisticated influence network that now shapes almost all aspects of government policymaking, especially in energy. Koch cash supports a sort of “full spectrum dominance” over America's democratic processes by

-3INDIVIDUALS OF UNDUE INFLUENCE — financing think tanks, media manipulators, fake grassroots groups (“astroturf”), and, increasingly, legislators, regulators and judges at every level of government,. By contributing lavishly to the electoral campaigns of like-minded candidates, the Kochs have captured a considerable hold on Congress, where they continue to be top contributors to politicians who sit on the key congressional committees for energy and resources. The Kochs are known to have bankrolled the Tea Party and now are poised to plow even more cash into the 2012 elections thanks to 2010 Supreme Court case allowing unlimited, undisclosed campaign contributions. The Kochs are also more than cozy with Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. With all these areas of public policy under the political control of “the one percent,” it is hard to imagine how to remove the roadblocks to political progress for phasing out fossil fuels without also addressing the role of the rich in corrupting our political system, as best symbolized in the U.S. by the Kochs.

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