May 1, 2017

New report: Big polluters have backdoor access to UNFCCC

Study exposes trade associations currently admitted to talks have long track records of undermining climate action

BOSTON—Today, Corporate Accountability International released a new report “Inside Job: Big Polluters’ lobbyists on the inside at the UNFCCC,” exposing the dirty fossil fuel trade associations that are stalking the halls of the U.N. climate talks to undermine, weaken, and block progress.

The report release comes just one week before governments convene in Bonn, Germany to continue negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Governments will, for the first time in history, officially discuss conflicts of interest at this convening. The meetings in Bonn will also be the first for the U.S.’ Trump administration, whose State Department is now led by former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. This has further raised the specter of conflicts of interest in government and at the talks.

“Right now hundreds of business trade associations have access to the climate talks, and many of them are funded by some of the world’s biggest polluters and climate change deniers,” said International Policy Director Tamar Lawrence-Samuel with Corporate Accountability International. “With so many arsonists in the fire department, it’s no wonder we’ve failed to put the fire out.”

The report peels back the curtain on just six of the more than 270 Business/Industry NGOs non-governmental organizations (BINGOs) currently admitted to the climate talks: U.S. Chamber of CommerceNational Mining AssociationBusiness RoundtableFuelsEuropeBusiness Council of Australia, and International Chamber of Commerce.

Many of these groups were exposed for their myriad fossil fuel industry connections in an analysis produced by Corporate Accountability International prior to the Marrakech climate talks in 2016. This report expands on that body of evidence, uncovering not just the BINGOs’ connections to the fossil fuel industry, but also the actions these groups have taken themselves to weaken, slow, or block climate policy, exposing their duplicity at the talks.

The report and discussion in Bonn build on the Kick Big Polluters Out campaign—a years-long movement of civil society groups and hundreds of thousands of people across the world demanding climate policy be protected from fossil fuel industry interference. Currently, there are no policies in place to protect against organizations intent on derailing the process, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Council of Australia.

Recently, the campaign has coalesced around a movement of governments representing nearly 70 percent of the world’s population that, last May in Bonn, called for the UNFCCC to address conflicts of interest. The proposal was met with fervent opposition from some of the world’s biggest historical emitters, including the United States, European Union, and Australia. And at the Marrakech talks in November, environmental groups confronted the U.S. delegation and delivered the call to kick big polluters out of the talks from more than half a million people, with an additional 75,000 calling for the U.S. delegation to support the policy or step aside.

Governments are looking to the precedent set in the global tobacco treaty. Both its key provision, Article 5.3, and the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 protect against classic industry interference tactics by barring partnerships, financial relationships, revolving door cases, and industry participation in the policymaking process. These provisions have been recognized by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan as the single largest catalyst of progress in a treaty that could save 200 million lives by 2050 when fully implemented.

The conflict of interest discussion will take place at Bonn during an in-session workshop on enhancing the participation of observer organizations, organized by the UNFCCC secretariat.


Key findings and recommendations:

The main takeaway: Under current UNFCCC rules, numerous BINGOs that represent the financial interests of Big Oil, Gas, and Coal have been granted access to the negotiations. These six BINGOs represent just the tip of the iceberg.

Findings from “Inside Job”:

  1. Big Oil’s Yes-man: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    1. Funded by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Peabody Energy.
    2. Lobbied against greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
    3. Priorities for 2017 include increasing fossil fuel production and opposing any attempts to regulate greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act.
    4. Uses legal attacks to intimidate policymakers.
    5. Promotes misleading “research” to undermine climate policy.
  2. Big Coal’s Chief Denier: National Mining Association
    1. Represents Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, GE Mining, and the American Coal Council.
    2. Has spoken out against the Paris Agreement.
    3. Sued to stop the Clean Power Plan.
    4. Campaigns for coal production.
  3. Big Businesses’ Big Bully: Business Roundtable
    1. Represents the CEOs of Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, Phillips 66, Marathon Oil Company, Marathon Petroleum Company, and Peabody Energy.
    2. Lobbies to open U.S. federal lands for drilling, mining, and fracking.
    3. Relentlessly opposed the Clean Power Plan, clean water, and air rules.
    4. Supports controversial and dangerous oil pipelines.
  4. Europe’s Fossil Fuel Apologist: FuelsEurope
    1. Members include BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Lukoil, and Varo Energy.
    2. Opposed European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (conservative, market-based false solution) and greenhouse gas targets.
    3. Says the European Union is already doing its fair share and any additional action would be “irrelevant in the global balance,” ignoring its historical responsibility.
  5. Australia’s Fossil Fuel Front: Business Council of Australia
    1. Members include BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Rio Tinto.
    2. Business Council of Australia’s president is on BHP Billiton’s board.
    3. Opposed Australia’s carbon tax.
    4. Its members are at the center of the controversial Great Australian Bight drill plans.
  6. The Corporate Door-Opener: International Chamber of Commerce
    1. The corporate ringleader of the UNFCCC: It makes sure all doors are open and all access is granted to corporations and trade associations.
    2. Access, access, access: The International Chamber of Commerce is the corporate skeleton key.
    3. Makes veiled ultimatums about business access: “If the Paris Agreement doesn’t work with and for business, then it just won’t work.”
    4. Supports weak, voluntary (non–mandatory) action.

Recommendations of the report: The report makes two overarching recommendations to governments:

  1. Formally reach a consensus on a universal definition of a conflict of interest: The UNFCCC should adopt the following definition: “A conflict of interest may arise when activities, relationships, or situations place a public institution and/or an individual that represents it in a real, potential, or perceived conflict between its duties or responsibilities to the public and personal, institutional, or other interests. These other interests include but are not limited to business, commercial, or financial interests pertaining to the institution and/or the individual. A conflict of interest, therefore, could be financial in nature or could simply point to diverging interests that may undermine policy objectives or outcomes.”
  1. Create a stringent, transparent process for admission: The UNFCCC should look to the abundance of established best practices that are already embodied in similar legislation around the world and put in place a stringent, transparent process for admission of UNFCCC observers. This process must be rigorous enough to ensure that those allowed to participate in the UNFCCC negotiations are motivated by the sole interest of protecting people and the planet, not private interests or what’s good for business.

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