The Conflict of interest debate at the UN Climate talks has taken a new twist as new research from Climate Investigations Center (CIC) has exposed a long history of fossil fuel industry lobbyist interference in climate change negotiations.
The research, which is based on 25 years of meeting “Participants” documents published by the UNFCCC uncovers for the first time how many fossil fuel industry trade groups and industry lobbyists attended the climate talks going back to the first Conference of the Parties in 1995.
The research builds on CIC’s release of an archive of documents from the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition (GCC). The documents show new details on how the GCC targeted the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to undermine science and slow progress on climate policy.
The new research on meeting participants shows that once the GCC dissolved in 2001, the same corporations and sometimes the same people who were GCC members continued attending COP after COP until today.
“As the Global Climate Coalition documents show, corporate interference has not only been happening at the UNFCCC for decades, it has had a real impact on climate policy,” said SriramMadhusoodanan, Deputy Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability.
Madhusoodanan adds that the GCC used its access to derail policymaking and undermine climate science, and worked with Global North governments to advance its denier agenda.
According to Madhusoodanan, many of the same individuals and corporations associated with the GCC are still active today, still freely able to stalk the halls and influence governments at the talks.
“While their goal in 1995 was to derail the talks, now it’s to steer it toward false solutions that will allow their members—the fossil fuel industry—to continue business as usual,” alleges Madhusoodanan.
According to a tally of total number of delegates over the period 1995-2018, Trade Associations that count fossil fuel corporations as members have sent more than 6,400 delegates to the climate talks in the aforementioned period.
And Climate Investigations Centre Director, Kert Davies says the legacy of fossil fuel corporate impact on the UNFCCC process and the IPCC is both invisible and impossible to forget.
“Fossil fuel interests have tried from the very beginning to undermine and infiltrate this difficult global agreement to make sure that it failed or faltered at each step. As they win, the planet loses," says Davies.
And commenting on the findings, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director, MithikaMwenda said the fossil fuel industry’s thirst for profit threatens to ruin the opportunity for urgent, ambitious and just climate action.
“For decades, they are allowed to come to these talks and pretend to be on our side,” said Mwenda. “They use their money and influence to steer these talks in their favour, regardless of the impact it has on people…And while they lobby, global north countries and others to maintain the status quo, their thirst for profit threatens to ruin the opportunity we have for urgent, ambitious, just action and turn it in to yet another money-making scheme.”
Meanwhile, NdivileMokoenaof the Women for climate justice Southern Africa, lamented how the polluter influence is hurting small scale agriculture, which is predominantly done by women.
Mokoena said the big push for industrial and commercial agriculture was placing markets and profits over communities.
"Agricultural activities in Africa particularly in South Africa are threatened by climate impacts like floods, storms, droughts and heavy soils. Rural women play a major role in small-scale agricultural production and 70% of all food is produced by small scale farmers who use low input and low emission technologies. But, the industrial and commercial “Climate Smart Agriculture” places markets and profits over communities. This involvement of corporate actors with clearly conflicting commercial interests in these talks will fatally undermine the integrity, effectiveness and legitimacy of UNFCCC’s work in the field of agriculture and climate change," said Mokoena.
Others whospokeon the research findings include SouparnaLahiri on behalf of the Climate Justice Now constituency, Michael Charles, of the Navajo Nation and a member of the Indigenous Peoples' Organization, LorineAzoulai representing hundreds of thousands of youth at the UN and Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory.