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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Fossil Fuel Companies Enjoy Unprecedented Access to Climate Talks


Climate talks kicked off in Marrakech, Morocco on November 7. Delegations of international leaders, organizations and advisers will hammer out how to implement the global climate agreement signed last year in Paris. Fossil fuel companies are involved in a way that The Guardian calls “unprecedented.” The involvement of fossil fuel companies through the trade associations is a conflict of interest because the primary interest of the companies is extracting and burning fossil fuels, something there will inevitably need to be less of in the years to come.

There is another problem with involving fossil fuel companies. They have funded climate change denial. Back in 2011, an analysis by Carbon Brief found that nine out of ten of the authors of over 900 papers that cast doubt on climate change had some sort of relationship with the oil giant ExxonMobil. That is the same company that is in hot water legally for failing to warn investors and the public about the dangers of climate change despite knowing about them in the 1970s. The Guardian reports that ExxonMobil, along with representatives from other fossil fuel companies, will have “unquestioned access to most discussions in Marrakech, will be called upon for advice and will be walking the corridors and holding private discussions with countries that are trying to move the world to stop consuming the products those companies have based their businesses on.”

“Industries responsible for climate change must not be entrusted to solve it,” Kelle Louaillier, President of Corporate Accountability International, wrote in an opinion piece. According to Louaillier, the only way to “implement truly groundbreaking measures” like renewable energy projects “owned and operated by communities” is by removing fossil fuel companies “from the equation.”

Corporate Accountability International released an infographic one week before the climate talks in Marrakech. What it revealed is both the extent of the fossil fuel industry’s access to the talks and their influence over them. Take the World Coal Association, which is an accredited observer at the climate talks. The organization represents some of the largest coal corporations in the world including Peabody Energy, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Trade associations such as the Business Council of Australia and BusinessEurope have members like ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. BusinessEurope has a long history of opposing European Union climate legislation. The trade association opposed the EU carbon tax in the 1990s and has tried to tone down the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. According to the organization Influence Map, the climate positions of BusinessEurope are “not aligned with most of its constituents” and it is “more obstructive than sectors most concerned about ambitious climate policy.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is another trade association which is an accredited observer at the climate talks. The organization, founded in 1984, states on its website that it “questions global warming alarmism.” One of its top funders is ExxonMobil, which has contributed “at least $2.1 million since 1997,” according to DeSmogBlog. The Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment is Myron Ebell, who is a climate change denier. (He's also been shortlisted to head the EPA in president-elect Trump's administration). 

Countries representing nearly 70 percent of the world’s population called for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to identify and address conflicts of interest that may come up between environmental objectives and the interests of certain sectors like fossil fuel groups. The group of countries is called the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDC). Created at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in May 2012, it is a coalition of 24 countries, that includes several Arab countries, India, China, several emerging Asian economies and countries from the Caribbean and South America. 

The UNFCCC chose to not listen to the concerns of the LMDC.

Some of the countries represented by the LMDC will be hit particularly hard by climate change impacts. Caribbean nations are a good example. As the Caribbean Climate Change Project (CCCP) points out, island nations “stand to feel the full brunt of climate change impacts.” One of those impacts is sea level rise. Take the Bahamas. According to the CCCP, sea level rise will cause the Bahamas to experience “considerable land loss” and that will have a negative effect on the tourism industry. Or take Jamaica which will also experience sea level rise that will impact tourism, but will also have its water resources affected by climate change. 

Photo: Flickr/swong95765

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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