December 6, 2019

New Research: The Big Polluters Bankrolling COP25

New Research: The Big Polluters Bankrolling COP25

MADRID—New research reveals that the corporations bankrolling this year’s UN climate talks in Madrid, COP25, are some of Spain’s biggest polluters and tied to human rights abuses, shady lobbying and greenwashing around the globe. 

The infographic and fact-file, released on “Business and Industry NGO (BINGO) Day” a day dedicated to corporations and their trade associations, was released by Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability, Ecologistas En Accion and Observatory of Multinationals in Latin America

Corporate sponsorship has become an unfortunate norm in the UN climate talks. At both COP24 in Poland and COP21 in France, where the Paris Agreement was agreed, Europe’s biggest polluters were featured prominently inside and outside of the talks. Through their sponsorship, corporations are not only able to wrap themselves in the green branding associated with the talks, they are also afforded increased access that perfectly positions them to have greater influence over the negotiations. 

Key findings include:

    • Endesa: Spain’s biggest utility and a subsidiary of Italian Enel, it produces electricity from coal, oil and gas and is Spain’s biggest single polluting company. Its operations are responsible for 9.3 percent of emissions in Spain. In Latin America, its parent company Enel has been involved in numerous controversial hydroelectric dam projects, leading to widespread human rights and environmental abuses.
    • Iberdrola: Despite claiming to be a green energy company, two-thirds of the new capacity the gas giant commissioned in 2017 were gas-based. In Latin America it has violated indigenous rights as well as being behind one of the continent’s most destructive mega-dams, Belo Monte.
    • Banco Santander: Spain’s largest bank is heavily involved in financing coal in Poland. It has provided financing for companies involved in deforestation and the building of mega-dams in Latin America.
    • Suez: Suez is one of the largest water privatization corporations in Chile and around the globe; its operations feature rate hikes, lay-offs, water quality issues, and shut-offs to low-income communities. Suez and its largest shareholder, Engie, are deeply involved in lobbying and obstruction on climate policy at the national and international levels. 



Sponsorship is a symptom of a larger problem of corporate interference at the UNFCCC. Inside the talks, trade associations and industry groups representing the interests of the fossil fuel industry and other Big Polluters stalk the halls and push their members’ agenda. The result of this corporate omnipresence is clear—year after the year the talks have failed to deliver on their objectives, except where corporations have interests. 

One such area are the guidelines on Article 6, which Big Polluters have ensured includes carbon markets as one of the means of collaborating between countries when implementing the Paris Agreement. Corporations, led by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), have lobbied heavily to use this Article to make carbon trading schemes that are devoid of limits or protections central to Paris Agreement implementation, IETA’s members include Endesa’s parent company Enel, Iberdrola which are both sponsors of COP25. 

Quotes from speakers at this morning’s press conference, in order of appearance: 

“For just a fraction of yearly profits, Big Polluters are able to wrap themselves in the branding of the COP and use this access to influence the negotiations,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability, “With the rules on the industry-backed carbon trading schemes high on the agenda this year, it’s no surprise that some of Spain’s biggest polluters have lined up with bags of cash. If Big Polluters and their industry groups like IETA get what they want, the Paris Agreement won’t curb business as usual, or drastically reduce emissions in line with the Paris commitments leading to further climate catastrophe.”

“Every time the COP is in Europe it’s bankrolled by the continents biggest polluters, and COP25 is no different. Endesa is Spain’s most polluting company, and with two million euros it’s managed to buy an obscene amount of space to promote its pro-climate propaganda,” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory. “Such blatant greenwashing is a slap in the face for most of us, yet welcomed by our governments, who actively seek their investment, thanks to their cosy relationship to the dirtiest industries. We need to keep these companies as far away from our decision makers as possible – both in the UN and in our national capitals.”

“The stock market reflects the economic and financial power of the Ibex35 at COP25. For the largest sponsoring companies such as Iberdrola, Endesa, Santander and BBVA, it is a magnificent opportunity for greenwashing, letting them hide the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions as well as the numerous socio-environmental conflicts they’ve caused. What’s more, they have been given tax breaks for their contributions thanks to their privileged relationship to the Spanish government while ensuring that the COP25 negotiations respond to their interests. A win-win for corporations.”

“La bolsa refleja el poder económico y financiero del Ibex35 en la COP25. Para las grandes empresas patrocinadoras como Iberdrola, Endesa, Santander, BBVA, entre otras, es una magnífica oportunidad de “lavado verde” que oculte su responsabilidad en la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero y en los numerosos conflictos socioambientales que tienen. Además, han obtenido deducciones fiscales por su privilegiada relación con los gobiernos españoles y aseguran que las negociaciones de la COP25 respondan a sus intereses. Un negocio redondo”. Erika González, OMAL

“In addition to fossil fuel companies, we need to pay close attention to the role of companies in the agricultural and forestry sectors within the UNFCCC. As this report and our own work at the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) shows, big agribusiness has captured international and national-level agricultural and trade policy-making, which continue to push this unsustainable agro-industrial model by incentivizing and subsidizing it. Companies such as Santander fund transnational agribusiness corporations and the impacts of these investments on indigenous peoples, the rights of women’s, forests and biodiversity, is terrible. In addition, this situation is leading to increased  criminalization and murders of environmental rights defenders. These corporations’ time for greenwashing is over — it’s time to kick them out.” – Ruth Nyambura, Global Forest Coalition

 “Time and again, corporations ignore communities and the lands that they feed from. They extract resources and use their profits to oil their way into negotiations like COP and use their greenwashing to try and position themselves as acceptable,” said Vidya Dikar with Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development. Corporations must stop financing governments, their lobbyists, our elections and instead pay for their pollution and human rights abuses.”

“As a US youth delegate to the climate talks for several years now, I have seen firsthand the ludicrousness of corporations using the UN as a marketing scheme. In Morocco at COP22, companies like OCP and Managem have actively harmed local communities. Safi, a fishing village had their livelihoods destroyed by phosphorus pollution by OCP. Managem’s silver mining have contaminated the local water supply of the Amazigh people, native to Morocco. 

These are stories that mirror the fact that at COP25, Endesa is both one of the largest sponsors and largest greenhouse gas emitters in Spain. Enough is enough — we cannot let corporations use the climate talks as a marketing campaign to greenwash without accountability. We need to make them pay to honor the people most impacted by their environmental crimes.” Orion Camero, SustainUS


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