About our climate campaign

We are kicking Big Polluters out of climate policy.

Our climate campaign demands that the industries most responsible for climate change not be allowed to set the rules. It’s time Exxon Mobil, the fossil fuel industry, and its proxies pay for the destruction they have caused. We know our collective survival depends on bold and just climate action now. Read more:

Corporate capture of climate policy
Kick Big Polluters out!
Make Big Polluters pay
Building on precedents
Our campaign partners
Our successes
Take action
Learn more

Corporate capture of climate policy

“If our governments actually intend to crack down on carbon emissions and make polluters pay, then they will first need to declare independence from the fossil fuel industry. The energy giants are motivated by one thing: profits. As long as those profits mean the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, they will never be part of the solution.”

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs.  The Climate

Exxon has known since at least the 1960s that burning its own products could fuel disastrous climate change. It’s time to hold Big Polluters like Exxon accountable. Photo credit: Greg Wass

Catastrophic hurricanes and typhoons. Drought and famine. Entire countries being swallowed by the ocean as sea levels rise.

This is not the scene of a dystopian future. Climate change is not a future threat — it is here now. People are dying and communities are being destroyed. But the effects of climate change — just like the causes of climate change — are not equally distributed.

The people and communities who are experiencing the most devastating impacts of climate change right now are those who have contributed the least to the problem. The twin histories of systemic racism and U.S. imperialism means that Global South countries and communities of color in the U.S. are on the frontlines of climate change. They are also on the frontlines of developing policies, solutions, and tools to adapt to the changing climate and to move quickly to alternative energy sources.

In the meantime, just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. These transnational corporations, based in the Global North, are doing everything in their power to continue polluting and extracting. For more than twenty years Big Polluters and their industry trade groups have been watering down promising policies, promoting half-measures, and pushing false solutions. They fund junk science to sow doubt and confusion about the reality of climate change. And they fund politicians who stonewall climate policy for them.

Just a few examples of Big Polluters in action:
  • During the 2018 U.S. election cycle alone, the fossil fuel industry a spent mind-boggling $81 million to defeat important environmental ballot initiatives in three states.
  • Between 1998 and 2012, Exxon Mobil donated more than $27 million to institutions and think tanks that have since produced research discrediting and questioning the science of climate change.
  • In the lead-up to a significant U.N. climate treaty meeting in 2015, eight oil and gas corporations reported holding 143 meetings with European government representatives.
  • The 2018 U.N. climate treaty negotiations in Poland were bankrolled by some of the largest and dirtiest energy corporations in the country.

Indeed, the corporate capture of climate policy can be seen most clearly in the U.N. climate treaty (formally known as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC). Our climate campaign seeks climate justice by kicking Big Polluters out of the international, national, and local climate policy, and the U.N. climate treaty is where we start.

Kick Big Polluters out!

The U.N. climate treaty entered into force in 1994. At that time, the global community recognized the need to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They came together to ratify a treaty that had the potential to provide a powerful call for all countries to set strong national climate policy.

But from the beginning, the fossil fuel industry and other Big Polluters inserted themselves into these treaty talks and successfully delayed, weakened, and blocked climate policy at every level.

More than two decades later in 2015, governments came together in an attempt to forge new commitments on climate — adopting what became known as the Paris agreement. And Big Polluters were there too, trying to exert their influence over the process. Transnational corporations with ties to coal and gas sponsored the negotiations and promoted false solutions at a giant expo in Paris. Corporations like Exxon Mobil, BP, and Shell tried gain legitimacy for their voluntary commitments in this process. And Global North countries representing Big Polluters interests pushed for an agreement that would have less force.

Then, in 2018 delegates met to hammer out the details of how they were going to implement the Paris Agreement. And once again, with their enormous power, the U.S. and other Global North countries advocated agendas that entrench the status quo, attempting to renegotiate core tenets of the Paris Agreement to shirk their historical responsibility and protect Big Polluters’ profits. This outcome will have very real and harmful consequences, particularly for the Global South communities that have done the least to cause climate change.

It is in the face of such deeply entrenched corporate power that we, in partnership with our climate justice allies, are demanding that Big Polluters be kicked out of climate policy. Since 2014, Corporate Accountability has been building and deepening relationships with climate justice organizations led by those on the front lines of climate change. We have been supporting government delegates determined to call out the harmful influence of Big Polluters on climate policy. And we have been organizing with our members and allies in the U.S. to bring this issue to the fore.

And it’s working. When we first started organizing on this issue, Big Polluters’ interference and decades of deception at the U.N. climate treaty was not widely discussed or acknowledged. Today, thanks to our and our allies’ organizing with delegates, media, and people across the world, there is a global call to kick Big Polluters out. Everyone is talking about it—the call echoes from the People’s Demands to the treaty negotiating halls to global news wires and the front page of The New York Times.

All told, this movement is creating a seismic shift in how people understand the root of the climate crisis. From the media to government officials to activists, more and more people are calling out Big Polluters as a driving force in not only causing the climate crisis but also preventing true, just solutions.

The global movement to expose and remove the influence of Big Polluters has taken hold of people’s imaginations and is powering decisive actions. Together, we will achieve the visionary climate policy the world urgently requires.

Join us—add your name to The People’s Demands for Climate Justice.

Make Big Polluters pay

Our climate campaign also holds Big Polluters accountable. As Executive Director Patti Lynn notes in a recent op-ed:

Since the 1950s, major fossil fuel corporations were on notice that their operations and products posed significant risks to the climate. These warnings continued throughout the 1960s and onward, but rather than reduce those risks, these corporations worked in collusion to subvert climate science, interfere with policy, and ultimately undermine the need for urgent action at a global scale. By taking this path, the fossil fuel industry knowingly contributed to climate change and its devastating impacts.

Big Polluters must pay for the costs to people and the planet of their decades of deception. It is an essential first step to implementing the just climate solutions we know we need.

And state attorneys general have a critical role to play in this regard.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading the way with her hard-hitting investigation into what Exxon knew when regarding climate change. She has refused to be intimidated by the corporation, pursuing her office’s right to investigate Exxon and setting the precedent for other states that have similar consumer protection laws to launch similar investigations.

Take action: urge your attorney general to investigate Exxon’s climate deception.

We know that widespread investigations like those we are calling for can have profound impacts. We have seen it before with the very industry that Big Polluters are borrowing their dirty tricks from: Big Tobacco.

In the late 1990s, dozens of state attorneys general launched investigations into, and lawsuits against, the tobacco industry. The process brought to light page after page of industry documents that completely exposed Big Tobacco’s abuses — and catalyzed swift, transformative tobacco control policy not only in the U.S., but also all around the world. And their legal victory requires the industry to pay billions of dollars each year to the settling states — forever.

It is way past time Big Polluters paid up for the crisis they’ve fueled. And it is high time they stop writing the rules for how we are going to address it. Corporate Accountability, our members, and our allies are mobilizing people power to take on these climate change culprits.

From the international level to the local, we are aiming to completely change the conversation about where we are at, who is responsible, and how to fix it.

Building on precedents

Our climate campaign builds on the major victories of our precedent-setting tobacco campaign. In the early 2000s, Corporate Accountability partnered closely with people, allied organizations, and governments around the world to take on another behemoth industry — Big Tobacco — in the U.N. policymaking forum.

Together, we secured a strong global tobacco treaty that explicitly prohibits tobacco corporations from playing any role in setting public health policy–a treaty that has since spurred the passage of lifesaving public health protections around the world. The world came together to agree: Big Tobacco’s interest is in fundamental conflict with the objectives of setting public health policy.  It should simply not be allowed to sit at the policymaking table.

It’s the same with Big Polluters and climate policy. Right now, Big Polluters are practically running the show — but they shouldn’t even be in the show. Securing bold, effective climate policy means kicking Big Polluters out.

During the global tobacco treaty negotiations, the U.S. proved to be an enormous obstructive force in securing a powerful, binding treaty. Only by organizing shoulder to shoulder with Global South allies and champion governments, and by fearlessly calling out the U.S. government’s role, were we able to move the treaty forward. In so doing, we secured a precedent-setting international law on which our climate campaign is built. 

Our campaign partners

“I consider Corporate Accountability a key partner in the work I do for climate justice. Their strategic approach, effective organizing, and commitment to women’s leadership set them apart. And the impact they are making in the U.N. climate talks is remarkable.”

– Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

We partner with organizations around the world to kick Big Polluters out and advance climate, environmental, and racial justice. Read more about our approach to organizing with allies.

Our successes

Hundreds of activists challenge governments to put people over polluters’ profits on the last day of the COP24 climate treaty negotiations in Poland in December 2018. The movement to kick Big Polluters out has grown mightier than ever.

The call to kick Big Polluters out of climate policy grows louder each year. Pictured: People around the world demand a climate treaty that puts people’s needs over polluters’ bottom line at the 2018 annual U.N. climate treaty negotiations.

Corporate Accountability and our partners are a formidable force in kicking Big Polluters out of climate policy. Together, we are gaining tremendous ground in securing the bold climate policy we need for global survival. The following recent victories were won in close partnership with our allies:

  • Big Polluters can no longer influence U.N. climate treaty talks unnoticed. Our dogged campaign to expose their influence over climate policy put this issue on the front page of The New York Times, as well as in countless other media outlets such as Democracy Now! The reports we released in collaboration with our Global South allies have been critical to securing such media coverage and shaping the conversations at the treaty talks. During the recent treaty meetings, governments and people from around the world demanded that climate policy be protected from Big Polluters’ influence and that climate justice prevail. With every meeting. We are ensuring the demand for climate policy that serves people and the planet – not the corporate bottom line — grows ever louder and stronger.
  • In the weeks before Trump took office, we moved President Obama to take an irreversible action for climate justice — releasing half a billion dollars into the Green Climate Fund.
  • On April 29, 2017, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to send a clear message: No matter who is in the White House, the people in the U.S. demand climate justice, bold action, and an end to the outsized power and influence of the fossil fuel industry. Corporate Accountability was central to the organizing of events in places like Boston and San Francisco.

Take action

Fired up about kicking Big Polluters out of climate policy? Want to advance climate and environmental justice? Here are a few ways you can join the global campaign:

Learn more

To learn more about how corporations are blocking climate policy at the international and national levels, check out the following resources:

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