Sunday

27th Sep 2020

Opinion

COP24: vital to keep big polluters away from climate policy

  • In October a leaked document from BusinessEurope, whose members include BP, Shell and ExxonMobil, exposed the trade lobby group's strategy for avoiding an increase of the EU's 2030 climate and energy targets (Photo: European Parliament)

In heavily coal-reliant Poland, the ongoing round of international climate talks is marred by the sponsorship of coal and gas companies.

Tackling climate change is not compatible with giving the fossil fuel industry a place at the negotiating table. With stakes this high, it is vital to keep big polluters away from climate policy-makers.

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The recently released report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made very clear that a 1.5C increase in global temperatures will have even more dramatic consequences than previously feared.

And we may already get there as early as 2030. So keeping temperature rises below 1.5C, as laid out in the Paris Agreement, means implementing bold climate policies today to avoid the worst impacts of food and water scarcity, climate-related poverty, forest fires, biodiversity losses and rising sea levels.

With survival at stake, what's holding us up?

Across the world, fossil fuel corporations and their lobby groups are deploying their massive resources, by far outspending civil society organisations, to protect their profits and shield their destructive business models which are at odds with a fossil-free future.

At the national, EU and UN levels, polluting corporations are lobbying for false solutions, such as promoting gas as a transition fuel, pushing global carbon markets, 'clean' coal, biofuels or carbon capture and storage technology.

No matter how much they dress up these distractions through greenwashing campaigns and climate-friendly grandstanding, their 'solutions' will only fuel a climate catastrophe.

In October, for instance, a leaked document from BusinessEurope, whose members include BP, Shell and ExxonMobil, exposed the trade lobby group's strategy for avoiding an increase of the EU's 2030 climate and energy targets.

Those targets are so low that even policy-makers have realised they cannot be justified.

BusinessEurope, however, instructed its members to engage in positive messaging on climate action "as long as it remains a political statement, with no implications on the range of 2030 EU legislations (ETS, effort-sharing, etc)."

Sponsored by the coal industry

Meanwhile at COP24, four out of the six newly-announced sponsors are coal and gas companies, including Europe's largest coking coal producer JSW.

Not only are those companies using their sponsorship to greenwash their brands, but also to organise 'expert panels' at the talks where they push for the continued use of fossil fuels.

Neither JSW nor any other polluting company should be at the talks and given the chance to undermine effective climate action.

The key to keeping big polluters away from climate policy-makers is the introduction of a firewall that prevents these corporate climate criminals from having a say over policies meant to tackle the problems created by their core business.

At the EU level, such a firewall would mean public authorities close the revolving door between fossil fuel companies and public office and restrict decision-makers' interaction with representatives of fossil fuel companies to what it absolutely necessary.

At the UN level, it would certainly mean banning big polluters from sponsoring and attending the climate negotiations.

Such an approach has already been successfully adopted in the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (UNFCTC) to protect public health policy-making from the vested interests of the tobacco industry.

It is now acknowledged that this industry's interference in health policies is detrimental to public health, but while we could easily say the same for the fossil fuel industry, no such mechanism is in place to protect climate policy-making at UN, EU or national level.

Countries representing nearly 70 percent of the global population as well as civil society groups from across the world have been demanding a conflict of interests policy for the UNFCCC.

Last spring, over 100 groups and 88 MEPs wrote open letters to ask the EU to stop siding with climate-sceptic governments like Donald Trump's and finally support the creation of such a policy to tackle vested interests at the negotiations.

A few weeks ago, the EU parliament renewed its call, passing a resolution calling on the European Commission to support moves to tackle "conflicting and vested interests" at the UN talks.

This year's round of UN negotiations in Katowice will determine whether the profits of big polluters come before climate, people and the planet.

With the window of opportunity for effective climate action narrowing ever faster, the EU must not ignore the deafening calls to kick polluters out of climate policy.

Pascoe Sabido is a climate policy researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory and Frieda Kieninger is a campaign officer at Food & Water Europe

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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