With the Paris Agreement coming into full effect just before the next meeting of the Conference of Parties’ (COP) is all set to kick off has opened the floor for implementation talk in this year’s UN Climate Conference in Marrakech at its 22nd session. All the same, the Parties shall not overlook addressing concern regarding the inclusion and influence of big polluters in UN negotiations. The inclusion of corporate organizations in the UN system has an extended account.In the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), the inclusion of non-state organizations is well established under the Articles 6 and 7 that allows non-governmental bodies to be approved as observers. As mentioned in an interview on European Commission’s social sciences and innovation column, that UNFCCC admission process requires applicants to provide a certificate of non-profit and/or tax exempt status, de facto excluding individual companies to be involved in the process. Thus, business companies are represented through their respective business associations under the broad category of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); allowing the business groups with conflict of interest to participate in UNFCCC conference every year.
Even the landmark Paris Agreement has welcomed participation of business-interest groups and corporations – irrespective of conflict of interest between big polluting industries’ action with global goal of limiting temperature rise. A Peer-reviewed research published in the science journal Climatic Change points out that 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of total global carbon pollution, and five companies—Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell and Conoco Phillips—have emitted 12.5% of total global emissions. These companies have been making profits over many decades constantly denying climate change because of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, their active presence at global climate change negotiations every year shows how tactfully they have entered into a regime which supports substantial reduction in global warming – that is, to limit greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal. According to a report by Jesse Bragg, this May in Bonn, during the first treaty negotiations since the Paris Agreement’s adoption, Parties sought to rectify this problem by calling for the study of other multilateral and UN bodies conflicts-of-interest policies and approaches. This call was made with a single objective to introduce an internal policy to the UNFCCC for assessing, and directing, conflict of interests among business interests non-governmental organizations. A policy as such is not new to the UN system, realizing conflict of interest due to involvement of tobacco industry in UN health conferences, WHO undertook the legally binding treaty, known as WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to “call for a limitation in the interactions between lawmakers and the tobacco industry” under Article 5.3.
For the last few years, the corporate lobbyists have been more active at the sessions of COP than ever! One of the most debated events of corporate infiltration at global climate change negotiations was witnessed in Warsaw at COP19 in 2013. The Polish government, not only allowed some of the giant climate change skeptic corporations like the General Motors and the BMW, but also, co-sponsored a coal industry summit during the talks. Last year, in Paris at COP21, a large number of fossil fuel company sponsors among other corporate groups were actively participating. The corporate groups organized several off-site events, business summits during COP21 such as Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015, Caring for Climate Business Forum, World Climate Summit 2015, to name but a few.
Corporate groups like Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, Anglo American, and others have been held legally responsible for human rights violation in countries like the USA and the Philippines. Yet, they have been allowed access to the climate negotiations because of their close ties with business and industry NGOs (BINGOs) such as National Center for Public Policy Research (Exxon Mobil), Business Roundtable (Chevron and Conoco Philips), and European Chemical Industry council (Exxon Mobil and Chevron), and other BINGOs.
Most business corporations and associations now have adopted a progressive stance toward climate negotiation and have also been actively pursuing the world to introduce new technologies to work in line with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise below 2°C. Nevertheless, no matter how innovative and efficient the technology would be, power generation from fossil fuel like coal, gas and oil will produce emission – since, they are limited in nature, they will extinct in near future. Thus, the Parties should take forward what was raised at the Bonn Climate Change Conference this May to the upcoming 22nd session of the COP in Marrakesh – introducing effective policy to screen and assess corporations with conflicting interests and effectively exclude their presence from all sorts of climate safeguarding decisions.
(Writer: Shaila Mahmud is working in the field of climate change and develpment)