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Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

by Pascoe Sabido

Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

When world leaders flock to Paris this December to hammer out a new accord to fight climate change, there’s a danger the process will again be hijacked by the polluters.

Follow the money and see why the COP21 talks may not deliver.


It’s all in the name: COP21. The twenty-first time countries have not solved the problem. Instead, things have progressively moved backwards, while the influence of big business over the UN process has grown.

At COP19 in Warsaw, oil and gas companies – responsible for climate change – actually sponsored the talks, while the COP19 President, Poland, co-organised a counter-summit with the coal industry. This year in Paris, polluters are set to sponsor once more.

The UN has itself proactively worked to bring business – including the fossil fuel industries – into the talks.

Those same industries have also pushed to increase their presence. That’s because tackling climate change would mean leaving more than four-fifths of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, undermining their business model. Not too popular among shareholders, which include most pension funds.

Nor with the banks, who earn large profits from lending to dirty energy projects. Or amongst energy-intensive industries that rely on cheap fossil fuels, or those that use them to make products such as plastics or chemicals. As the old saying goes, “it’s the economy, stupid,” and fossil fuels are at the heart of it.

Moving away from them would make losers out of some of the most powerful interests in society.

In turn, these big businesses have done all they can to block progress – from undermining the science to proposing pie-in-the-sky techno-fixes (or straight-up PR spin, like “clean coal”) that ensure they can keep profiting from trashing the climate.

They deserve the label of “corporate climate criminals.”

But failure should not be laid at the door of the UN talks themselves (although the organisers, including chief Christiana Figueres, have played an important role). The failure is a symptom of a national problem: our governments turn up to the talks with their positions already shaped by dirty energy companies.

US reticence is unsurprising, given US politics is awash in oil and gas money.

Canada’s polluting tar sands have had similar impact there on their commitment to tackling climate change.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The tobacco industry was doing the same thing to the UN tobacco control talks, so the UN’s World Health Organisation introduced a firewall between tobacco lobbyists and public health officials.

No more sponsorship, no more lobby meetings, no more participation in negotiations. No more access. And not just at the international level but the national level.

We need to take similar steps against the corporate climate criminals, and many groups heading to Paris will be making such a call, because the same industries causing climate change have no right to be alongside the decision-makers trying to tackle it. But action only comes through public pressure, from our elected leaders feeling strong enough to stand up to vested interests.

If Paris can create that pressure, while the agreed text won’t save the climate, it could mark the beginning of the end for the excessive lobbying influence of dirty industries and their grip over politics and our economy.

Only then can we design the fair and just transition for workers, women, indigenous peoples, peasant farmers and everyone else based on social, economic and climate justice.

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Your comments

  • On 13 May 2015 at 20:40, by Owen Newton Replying to: Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

    I call on the UN not to involve fossil fuel companies in the process to agree a solution to climate change. Involving fossil fuels companies is counterproductive and makes the process valueless and removes public trust in the UN. I ask our leaders to think of the future of our children and beautiful world and take courage to do the right thing.

    Yours hopefully Owen Newton

  • On 14 May 2015 at 20:19, by Lorraine Surringer Replying to: Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

    The greedy fossil fuel companies simply want to continue to make money while polluting and poisoning the environment - so they will bribe governments to geoengineer our skies instead (which they are already doing) which is even more catastrophic to the planet and all its inhabitants! Greed and profit at all costs!

  • On 19 May 2015 at 11:25, by Seán Conway Replying to: Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

    The article by Pascoe is very important if Climate Change is to be addressed.

    But the very simple question is:

    "How do we achieve the mission of keeping "dirty energy companies" out of the Paris Climate Talks?"

    It seems like a long shot but its worth a try if this question can be answered>

  • On 2 July 2015 at 13:33, by Pascoe Sabido Replying to: Get “dirty energy” sponsors out of Paris climate talks

    Thanks for comments - in response to HOW we can get them out, a few different organisations are working together on this, to use the example of the World Health Organisation.

    This petition is trying to add pressure, so please do sign: http://www.kickbigpollutersout.com/

    And we need to be making really loud public calls that leaders can no-longer get away with this.

    Keep an eye out and lend your voice wherever possible!

    If you’re not able to make it to Paris, where there will be lots of people making that very demand on the streets during the COP, then hopefully there will be something in your city that you can get involved in and get them to also stress the point.



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