November 1, 2017

Report: Paris deal threatened by corporate capture

Study shows how industry lobbying, greenwashing threatens to derail markets, finance, technology, and agriculture negotiations

BOSTON—On the eve of global climate meetings, a report from leading climate policy experts finds that corporate capture is a primary obstacle to progress in the UN climate talks. The first-of-its-kind assessment of corporate capture in UNFCCC history finds that the pro-industry, anti-regulation agenda of global corporations is forcing a menu of false solutions into the center of Paris Agreement negotiations and threatening its realization.

The report, “Polluting Paris: How Big Polluters are undermining global climate policy” exposes how the world’s biggest polluting corporations are undermining many policy negotiations vital to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and global climate policy. The reveals the impact this interference has had on cooperative approaches, finance, agriculture and technology discussions and exposes the effect corporate sponsorship and fossil fuel industry participation have on the integrity of the talks.

The study also examines how Global North governments—with Donald Trump and the United States front and center— are acting at the behest of the fossil fuel and other polluting industries to undermine progress. It is is the latest in a growing body of evidence that clearly shows corporate interference—often orchestrated by corporate lobbyists, industry groups, and Global North governments—is one of the primary obstacles to climate progress.

“Big Polluters have insinuated themselves into almost every aspect of the UNFCCC,” said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel of Corporate Accountability, which authored the report alongside four global climate justice experts. “If we don’t put an end to it now, lobbyists and delegates representing industry interests will ensure the Paris Agreement promotes—rather than protects against—the money-making schemes of the world’s biggest polluters.”

The authors of the report are climate policy experts from organizations around the globe including the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, Corporate Europe Observatory, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) and ActionAid International.
In reference to the report’s agriculture chapter, Teresa Anderson of ActionAid International said, “By spinning their destructive practices as ‘climate smart’, corporate agriculture’s biggest polluters have somehow duped the world that they are climate leaders. If that’s not a sign that countries are dangerously in thrall to corporate storytelling, I don’t know what is.”

As the report finds, industry representatives have infiltrated the talks with such success that the focus of the negotiations themselves has been skewed toward industry agendas, pushing through faulty and fake alternatives to real solutions. In the Article 6 negotiations, corporate influence has tilted the talks toward market-oriented trading mechanisms that benefit the industry groups and corporations supporting them, and away from evidence-backed non-market solutions, like direct finance and binding emissions reductions.

The report’s authors point to the undue influence of trade associations like the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) whose members include oil giants BP and Chevron, and coal corporations BHP Biliton, Duke Energy and Rio Tinto. IETA has insinuated itself so far into the talks, one of its own board members negotiates on behalf of Panama and is a co-coordinator on market mechanisms for G77 & China, the largest UNFCCC negotiating bloc.

In a further illustration of corporate capture in action, Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development points to the Green Climate Fund’s accreditation of international institutions that subscribe to “private-sector-led growth” and fossil fuel-invested banks like HSBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. As a result, just five transnational banks or institutions manage nearly 75% of the GCF’s funds and more than 50 percent of allocated funds have gone to private sector projects.

Throughout the report, the authors point to a common thread of obstructionism from many Global North governments—the U.S. in particular—on behalf of the very industries responsible for the climate crisis. The Trump administration has unprecedented ties to the fossil fuel industry. Many of Trump’s appointees used to work on behalf of oil, coal and gas industries while many more are deeply invested in the industry or doubt the settled science of climate change.

In May 2017, the issue of undue corporate influence in the climate talks captured international attention at the intersessional treaty meetings and culminated in calls from governments for a conflict of interest policy. And, just last month, the European Parliament called for its negotiators to prioritize addressing the harmful influence of polluting industry interests at COP23. While that call was ultimately overlooked by the European Council, governments are again expected to take up the issue at the next intersessional talks in May 2018.

Drawing attention to the harms of corporate sponsorship, Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory, “Corporate sponsorship of the COP is symptomatic of a deeper problem – political leaders see climate-trashing corporations as partners in solving a crisis they not only profit from but have lobbied against solving. Ending this sponsorship should be a no-brainer, and a small but visible step in the right direction.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • “Climate Smart Agriculture” is being used by big agricultural corporations to greenwash environmentally devastating practices and stave off emissions regulations on industrial agriculture. Corporations like Yara, Syngenta and Monsanto are influencing UNFCCC through direct lobbying and trade association membership.
  • Some of the world’s largest fossil fuel industry players have held leadership positions on the Climate Technology Centre and Network’s advisory board including executives from Shell and Électrictié de France.
  • The Climate Technology Network—a group that supports the CTCN by providing Global South countries with technological assistance and advice—counts as its members the World Coal Association and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute which represents the likes of Shell, ExxonMobil, among others.
  • More than 50% of the funds the GCF has allocated thus far have been to private sector projects ($1.74 billion vs. $1.3 billion).
  • Big Polluters such as Suez and Engie have been able to buy access to the climate talks by bankrolling the talks themselves.
  • The corporations undermining climate talks internationally are the same ones bribing government officials, stealing resources from local populations, and stalling policy at home.
  • Instead of protecting climate policy from these vested interests, the UNFCCC bodies and Secretariat welcomes this participation and actively promotes it, providing the stage for Big Polluters to masquerade as part of the solution, not the crux of the problem.

The report makes a series of recommendations in each section as well as the following overarching recommendations:

  • Put in place policies and procedures that protect these climate policy areas from the undue influence of entities with vested or conflicting interests.
  • Ensure that as policymakers are agreeing on the various procedures and guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement, they reject the false alternatives industry players are pushing, and promote the development, financing, and transfer of the real solutions that are proven to benefit people and the planet.


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