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Nithin Coca headshot

COP21: Brought to You By ... Big Polluters?


The world is coming together to try to build a clean energy future, but the UNFCC COP21 Paris climate talks themselves are being bankrolled by the very companies that got us into this mess.

That is according to a new report from Corporate Accountability International, which found that four French companies sponsoring the climate talks – Engie, EDF, Suez Environment and BNP Paribas – are responsible for more than $15 billion invested in the coal industry; and more than 200 megatons of CO2 equivalent emissions – more than the yearly output of all but 20 countries.

“Most of these companies are big emitters of the very greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, such as EDF or Engie whose coal plants alone are equivalent to nearly half of France's entire emissions,” said Malika Peyraut, of Friends of the Earth to DeSmogBlog. “Putting the most important climate conference of the decade under the patronage of climate-incompatible businesses does not bode well.”

Fossil fuels companies are also master lobbyists. In California, earlier this year, fossil fuel companies prevented SB 350 from including a 50 percent oil and gas reduction standard, a major victory for dirty energy. But they are also feeling the pressure. The divestment movement has moved an estimated $3.4 trillion away from fossil fuel companies, and here in the United States, coal companies are going bankrupt as clean, renewable energy becomes cheaper and cheaper.

“Inviting some of the world's biggest polluters to pay for the COP is akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house. We must eliminate this conflict of interest before COPs become corporate tradeshows for false market-based solutions,” said Patti Lynn, executive director of Corporate Accountability International, in an email statement.

This comes on the heels of news that the New York State Attorney General will be suing one of America's largest fossil fuels companies – Exxon-Mobil – for its willful denial of climate sciences and climate action despite knowing of its validity for years.

“It’s an outrage that Exxon conspired to hoodwink the public on the reality of climate change, and their decision to do so has placed American lives in peril,” stated Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy director of Environmental Action, in a statement.

This is why CAI and several other NGOs are pushing for the climate talks to kick out big polluters, who have been standing against, not for, progress. It is because of them that we are facing such a huge challenge right now: preventing catastrophic climate change.

“The fossil fuel industry is actively lobbying against climate action and standing in the way of progress. When you’re trying to burn the table down, you don’t deserve a seat at it,” Hoda Baraka, global communications manager for 350.org, in a statement.

Let's hope -- for the sake of the world -- that the millions being spent by these dirty French companies has no impact on the talks.

Image credits: 1) Staplehunter 2) Mary Mazzoni

Nithin Coca headshotNithin Coca

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

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