COP21: Kickout the big Polluters

As the world leaders get ready to meet in Paris for 21st Conference of the parties (COP21), to establish a solid ground to solve the climate crisis, doubts shadow whether or not corporate business and big oil polluters have taken over the agenda.

The corporate involvement, specially fossil fuel lobby groups within the UNFCCC is not new. From the very beginning of the earth summit and 1995 COP1 (Statement by the International Chamber of Commerce before COP1) in Berlin till cop20 in Lima, we have seen corporate parties taking every action to jeopardize any climate agreement and to make sure their interest is not harmed, which they refer to as ‘Business as usual’.

The negotiation to bring the countries on same page in solving climate crisis has been going on for 20 years now through COP. And each time the outcome was same: No universal agreement. Closest were COP3 and COP15, but there were no legal binding. The corporations and fossil fuels lobbyist group played a key role ensuring that.The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

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CO2 level has never been this high in human history. Credit: NOAA & Scripps Institution of Oceanography

But, why do organizations like UNFCCC let business corporations take over things? A short history lesson will help us understand that.

Back in 70s, UN took up an initiative to monitor big corporations so that they can’t  create pressure on underdeveloped nations for business. With time, UN changed that policy and the companies were given priority to invest in the name of foreign direct investment through UN. Later in the 90s, the financial crisis within the UN, opened doors for more Corporate-UN partnership. UNFCCC is just one part of it.

Corporate influence

The corporate influence within UNFCCC—Polaris Institute

With COP, the whole world has seen the effort fossil fuel lobbyist group indulge in. From ‘business as usual’ market based solution to ‘greenwash’ every effort has been put into place to care for profit, not for the environment. To them, climate action is important, but can’t jeopardize the growth. Carbon tax is another loophole, which shifts focus from emission reduction to emission transfer.

So, when the French Senate cut funding for COP21, the French government’s announced that corporate sponsors would cover 20 percent of the €170 million event was not a surprise.

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Corporate and dirty, does not look smart—COP21 sponsors

Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and many other civil society organizations have been pointing out the corporate involvement with COP for years. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in two key points [1]:

  1. Most of the sponsors invest heavily in fossil fuel, and with a weak climate agreement, they benefit the most
  2. UNFCCC and its member governments are allowing the corporations responsible for causing the climate crisis to greenwash their brands while continuing to make no meaningful changes to their polluting operations.

 

Fossil Fuel lobbyist are also becoming desperate. With downward pressure on gas and coal prices, both the removal of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and implementing renewable energy strategy is possible without raising much energy cost. Then there is their public image, which is also facing much scrutiny as fossil fuel industry knew about their effect on climate change since 1980s and they continued to fund deniers throughout.

So, what this means? This means that whatever outcome we get from COP21, may also serve the fossil fuel industry, a reason why a drive is now ongoing to kick out the big polluters from COP21 negotiation. World Health Organisation (WHO) had done such before in one of United Nations quickest ratified treaties in 2005 which introduced a bar between public health officials and tobacco industry. We do not want the same history to be repeated again and again, as we have found for the last 20 COPs, big polluters find their way in. It’s time that we say no to them through an action like WHO, for us and for the planet.

More to come, this week: Have you heard, renewable can save the world by 2050? Stay tuned.