COP19, Warsaw – Corporations rule OK!

Published by: The Ecologist, November 15, 2013
Written by: Rachel Tansey

IMG_2762Big business, industry and finance, keen to set the agenda and shape the rules in the interests of their profits – and at the expense of climate justice – have infiltrated COP19.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s yearly talks have become a “must attend” event for huge numbers of business and industry lobbyists, all eager to promote their preferred “solution” to tackling climate change – solutions which protect their business interests, provide them with new opportunities to profit and most importantly of all, allow them to continue polluting the climate and destroying the environment for everyone.

False solutions to climate change have been promoted by powerful corporations and business interests for years, from a free market in pollution – a global carbon market that helps rich companies avoid emission cuts at source – to public funding for controversial technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear power and agrofuels which have been shown to harm people and the planet.

False solutions to climate change have been promoted by powerful corporations and business interests.

This year marks the 19th session of the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP19), and the climate talks are taking place in the Polish capital of Warsaw, 11-22 November 2013. Poland’s government is renowned for its pro-coal, anti-climate stance.

It is now infamous, together with other EU member states, for its blocking of more ambitious EU climate and energy policy, including increasing energy efficiency, renewables and emission reductions targets, and for pushing for the exploitation of shale gas and so called “clean coal”.

COP19 is taking place against a backdrop of huge numbers of corporate side events, many given an extra boost of importance by official links with the Polish COP’s organisers. The Pre-COP, a crucially important moment of the negotiations, included an unprecedented “business day”. COP19 is also the first UN climate talks to have corporate sponsorship, with some of the biggest climate crooks as official ‘partners’, including ArcelorMittal, Alstom and BMW.

The Polish Ministry of Economy has even teamed up with the World Coal Association to put on a parallel “International Coal and Climate Summit”, whose joint “Warsaw Communiqué” is simply a blunt call for more coal and CCS, wrapped in the language of sustainable development. Added to that, notorious big business – and anti-climate lobbies – have lined up to attend the Warsaw COP.

All in all, this year’s UN climate talks are set to be the most corporate captured yet, at a time when genuine progress towards real climate action is more vital than ever. COP19 is a critical point on the road to Paris 2015, when a new, binding global climate deal must be reached. But it is at COP19 that countries need to commit to having concrete emissions reduction targets ready by next year’s COP in Peru, as well as lay the foundations for the new deal in 2015.

Big business, industry and finance, keen to set the agenda and shape the rules in the interests of their profits – and at the expense of climate justice – have infiltrated COP19.

Corporate lobby groups are pushing for false solutions to climate change, such as carbon markets, coal and CCS, shale gas, agrofuels, GM and nuclear, all wrapped-up in nice-sounding phrases like “low carbon”, “clean”, “green economy”, “sustainable growth” or “bioeconomy”.

Big business has become the king of spin, disguising its pro-profit and environmentally exploitative agenda, lobbying for so-called “solutions” that will fail to prevent catastrophic climate change and lock us into a system dependent on fossil fuels.

Their rhetoric hides the fact that these companies are performing activities, and even have core business models, with severe impacts on the climate, local environments and on people, violating human rights and destroying local communities.

But rather than standing up to these powerful and self-serving corporations, the UNFCCC is granting them an ever-more central role in designing the “solution”; when the only real solution is keeping fossil fuels in the ground and making a just transition towards a post-fossil fuel society. As long as these corporations are invited to the table and treated as partners, this will not happen.

The dangerous and damaging steps that the Warsaw COP and its organisers, the Polish government, have taken – by embracing big polluters and climate crooks as official partners, bringing business into the pre-COP and teaming up with coal-lobbies to promote catastrophic climate policies – endanger the whole UNFCCC process, and our future.

Corporate capture on the scale that is exhibited at COP19 runs the risk of rendering the UN climate negotiations not merely ineffective, but counterproductive to tackling climate change.

It is time for the UN and the international community to open its eyes to corporate spin and powerful vested interests, and work towards real alternatives that embody the principles of social, environmental and climate justice. Leave big business polluters and corporate climate crooks out of the negotiating room.

Our COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying investigates the web of corporate lobbying and industry capture exposes the eleven official corporate partners of the conference; takes a look at some of the other influential Polish lobbies; and examines an extensive (though non-exhaustive) list of the lobby groups attending the COP according to the sector they represent.

These sectors include fossil fuels, cross-sectoral big business groups, carbon market and financial players, agribusiness and agrofuels, as well as some of the big polluting industries.

Throughout the lobby guide you’ll also find boxes on the false solutions that are being offered up by these corporate lobbies, such as shale gas (extracted through hydraulic fracturing), carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon markets. Big business is attempting to disguise its so-called “solutions” as green, when in fact they serve their narrow economic interests whilst jeopardising real, effective and fair climate action.

The real alternatives are clear: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, ensure a just transition towards a post-fossil fuel society, based on community-owned decentralised renewable energy, social justice, equity and an end to the exploitation of resources and people.

This article is drawn from The COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying – Climate crooks and the Polish government’s partners in crime, published by Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute

The Guide was written by Rachel Tansey, with contributions from Karolina Jankowska, Nina Holland and Belén Balanyá, and thanks to Lyda Fernanda Forero, Pascoe Sabido and Belén Balanyá for comments and feedback.



View article on the Ecologist website at the

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