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Growing Pressure for Lobbying Transparency in Climate Talks

This week at the U.N. climate treaty talks, governments are poised to hash out the details needed to bring the Paris Agreement from concept to reality. The meeting is about agreeing on the process, the detail and the rulebook.

One item high on their agenda will be how the UNFCCC and its member governments address the growing problem of the fossil fuel industry’s corrosive interference and disinformation in climate policymaking.

Growing pressure from a big coalition of civil society and environmental groups is mounting to make the process transparent and democratic.

This week saw 88 MEPs from six parties across Europe call for the EU delegation to support a process to develop a conflict of interest policy.

This follows on the heels of the civil society letter earlier in the month from 93 environmental and civil society organisations to European Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič by 93 environmental and civil society organisations, just a week before delegates are expected to confront this very issue at the Bonn talks.

The letter stated:

For the world to reach the necessary ambition to achieve our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, which would keep average global temperature rises well below 2°C and even 1.5°C, the EU, led by the European Commission, must start supporting efforts to tackle vested interests within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”

Greg Muttitt, Research Director from campaign group Price of Oil told DeSmog UK:

Fossil fuel companies have consistently held us back from tackling climate change, whether by secretly funding fake experts and organisations to undermine the science, or by claiming themselves to be part of the solution even while they increase their extraction and sale of carbon.”

In reality they are as much part of the climate solution as tobacco companies are the solution to smoking-related illnesses. Just as tobacco companies were excluded from conferences on the dangers of smoking, fossil fuel companies must be kept out of climate negotiations.”

This week also saw campaign group Corporate Accountability International (CAI) release a new primer detailing the membership and agenda of one of the fossil fuel industry’s most influential trade associations: The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA).  

It claims IETA’s top priority on behalf of its fossil fuel industry members is to advance dangerous distractions like carbon markets, which have been proven ineffective at reducing emissions. In so doing, IETA not only advances policy that locks in the status quo, it also displaces real, meaningful solutions to the climate crisis, Corporate Accountability claimed.

IETA relies on its untethered access to the negotiations and installing representatives on government delegations to carry out its agenda.With world governments meant to agree to the Paris “rulebook” by the next annual climate meeting in December, IETA’s influence could help steer governments away from an agreement that justly averts the worst effects of climate change towards one that maintains the status quo and condemns the world to two-plus degrees of warming, the report said.

In a statement Corporate Accountability claimed that: “The IETA itself was itself founded by big polluters to represent their interests and does so to this day. Its members include: BP, Shell, Chevron, BHP, Koch Supply & Trading, Statoil, Total, and Rio Tinto.”

Corporate Accountability has argued that the IETA is forcing carbon market trading schemes, which benefit Big Polluters, into the center of Paris Agreement implementation despite the well-documented failure of these schemes to curb emissions.

IETA affiliates serve on country delegations and have been known to negotiate on their behalf.

At COP23 it was exposed by Corporate Accountability that honorary board member and former IETA CEO, Andrei Marcu was negotiating on behalf of a government and helping to lead on markets for the G77 and China—the largest negotiating bloc at the UNFCCC.

Jesse Bragg, Media Director,  from Corporate Accountability explained:

IETA is a symptom of a much larger and growing problem — the interference of fossil fuel industry trade association in climate policy. IETA is perhaps the most influential and powerful of the trade associations at the UNFCCC — their associates sit on government delegations and they steer the talks toward market distractions at every turn.”

But Thomas O’Neill, Research Director,  of thinktank Influence Map told DeSmog UK said:

Global summits require governments to make concessions and when this is happens who is in the room becomes important.  Business associations exploit these moments to define in the minds of national delegates what is possible – without the loss of trade, jobs, etc.

The UNFCCC has been slow to recognise it has a responsibility to temper this influence, which has been to the detriment of global climate ambition.”

A spokesperson from the IETA responded saying:

IETA supports the UNFCCC’s goals and objectives for climate protection – which are a core part of our mission. In fact, IETAwas created to build on the economic mechanisms created by the Kyoto Protocol in order to achieve climate objectives in the most cost-effective way.”

“Our mission is now to support and facilitate the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement. We believe that markets are a key enabler to help Parties pursue the 1.5 degree goal.”

“We also respect UNFCCC’s rules and procedures, including its guidelines for observer participation. Willing to go beyond the minimum requirements, the IETA governing council adopted a set of Guidelines for our delegation’s participation at COPs.”

“In summary, our members observe UN climate negotiations, because they are serious about bringing business solutions to the climate challenge.”

By Mike Small

Main Image: Pete Kowalsky – CC2.0

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