March 1, 2022

Shifting what’s possible at U.N. climate talks

Illustration of people standing together and holding up a sign that reads “Make Big Polluters Pay” in bold letters with an outline of the African continent. Lush hills of grass and a winding river extend into the background.

Each year, the U.N. climate talks are sponsored by a handful of polluting corporations while rich Global North countries advance Big Polluters’ interests in the negotiating rooms. Some country delegations have actually included industry representatives, and many treaty meeting events and panels are run by and feature Big Polluters. These are just some examples of how, since almost the beginnings of the U.N. climate treaty, Big Polluters have been at the table, wielding their enormous influence to protect the status quo—and their profits.

For decades, climate justice organizers and movements around the world decried the role of Big Polluters in these meetings. But by and large, their voices were silenced and stifled by Big Polluters and rich, polluting countries.

But as the effects of the climate crisis worsen, and as evidence of Big Polluters’ role in the crises becomes impossible to argue with, the world is finally beginning to listen to those who have, since the beginning, identified the problem—Big Polluters—and the remedy—kick them out and advance just, transformative solutions.

During this year’s meetings, we and our allies helped bring these demands forward. Big Polluters and the Global North governments that continue to prop these corporations up came to the talks hoping that the media would paint them as climate heroes. Instead, we helped expose their dirty tricks to the world.

One way we did this was by analyzing exactly who was allowed to be in the room. An exclusive BBC story, secured in partnership with our allies, revealed that the fossil fuel industry had more delegates authorized to attend the talks than any single country. The ensuing media blitz, reaching more than 2 billion people worldwide, gave wings to the global call to kick Big Polluters out. We also put “net zero” pledges by rich, polluting countries and Big Polluters under scrutiny.

As a result of this organizing, we and our allies have created pathways to advance real solutions and measures protecting against polluters’ conflicting interests in the treaty. Together with our allies and you, we are shaping the context in which the world responds to climate change in the name of justice and a thriving future for all.

Artwork by Paloma Rae

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