How the coal lobby is already undermining the Paris climate summit

Our governments care more about the concerns of big business than scientists' warnings about climate change


‘Two weeks to save the world in Paris’. ‘Paris is the moment of truth for our climate’. In the coming months leading up to the UN climate negotiations in Paris you’re likely to hear a lot more statements like these.

But the negotiations are now so dominated by corporate interests that they are very unlikely to conclude in a deal that offers any solution for people or the climate.

Last week it came out that BP and other big energy companies lobbied the EU heavily before the launch of new clean energy targets to favour gas (including shale gas). In a similar story George Monbiot argued that the coal lobby is now so powerful that government is scrapping air pollution regulations and thereby risking tens of thousands of lives to make it easier for coal companies to make money.

The UN’s Conference of Parties (COP) climate conference has been an ongoing process for over 20 years, bringing government representatives together to agree to a deal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stopping climate change. But right from the very beginning, corporations have used every opportunity to steadily increase their presence and influence over the negotiations. These two latest examples aren’t directly linked to the climate talks but they do illustrate how corporations use their political influence to undermine effective action on climate.   

You rarely hear companies still denying climate change or see them openly supporting climate change denying groups. Rather some of the most polluting corporations in the world are now using the process to brand themselves as the solution to the very problem they’ve been creating in the first place. BP lobbying for more natural gas instead of renewable energy is just one example of that.

If you go to the negotiations in Paris this December you will find that parts of the centre of the city will be taken over by coal companies advocating ‘clean coal’ as the solution to climate change.

We have reached a point where the corporate lobbying is expected by everyone, and to a large extent doesn’t even have to be done behind closed doors anymore. The UN negotiations in Paris are officially sponsored by big climate-destroying business such as big energy companies and car manufactures.

The problem is that our governments seem to be listening much more to the concerns of big business than to the scientists warning against climate change. Fracking, despite its very dubious climate credentials, is being pushed harder than ever by politicians and carbon capture and storage, and the flagship technology of ‘clean coal’, is expected to receive big lumps of public money even though energy corporations themselves have admitted the technology isn’t really a feasible solution.

The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘clean coal’, just an awful lot of corporate lobby money.

We can no longer place our faith in the corporate-controlled negotiations. Rather we must grow the movement for democratic and sustainable energy. Global Justice Now will be going to Paris for the negotiations this December. Not with any hope for the UN process, but with the hope that we can be part of an ever growing grassroots movement to take back control of our energy and stop climate change. Get in touch if you would like to join us in Paris.

Morten Thaysen is part of Fuel Poverty Action and Reclaim the Power. He also works for Global Justice Now, where this article first appeared.

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23 Responses to “How the coal lobby is already undermining the Paris climate summit”

  1. I'm very cross about this.

    Two weeks to save the world in Paris you say. We’ve been given many deadlines for saving the world, the Prudent One even set a deadline so when are we going to be to late so we no longer have to listen to the vacuous drivel about dangerous Man-Made climate change. Climate changes, it’s a little bit warmer than it was 100 years ago, enjoy that because when it starts getting colder; and it will, then you’ll have something to bleat about.

  2. Dave Stewart

    You’re a fool.

    The article wasn’t suggesting there are two weeks to save the world, it literally said “you’re likely to hear a lot more statements like these” in the run up to the Paris talks.

    Also why is it vacuous drivel to talk about man made climate change? You are right the current temperature changes have been quite small globally, some places have seen much more dramatic warming (the poles for instance) than most others. It is however also important to realise that climate changes incredibly slowly in human terms so everything seems incredibly slow to us. The problem is in geological terms the last hundred years has shown alarming fast warming of the planet and the modelling has consistently suggested that it will be a runaway effect with more warming causing yet more rapid warming. Unless you personally think you know and understand more about the global climate that the vast majority (something like 95 or 98%) of climate scientists I think you ought to hush up.

    in 100 years we as a species have increased the CO2 content in the atmosphere to the highest levels since the Triassic period (200 million years ago) back when the planet was significantly more geologically active and volcanism caused most of the CO2.

  3. Rick

    There’s been no climate warming in nearly two decades. It’s a scam. Read the emails on how and why the data was ‘fixed’.

  4. David Lindsay

    Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a return to the British coal industry makes perfect economic and strategic sense. On the latter score, it is vastly more important than staying in NATO, which is the real throwback to the world before the 1980s.

    It is not as if we no longer burned coal. Just not our own, of which we have enormous reserves. Energy independence is central to national sovereignty and to national security. It is hardly as if we are unblessed with the resources.

    Coal and nuclear (which is strongly advocated by Unite, and which was promoted by the previous Labour Government when David Cameron was calling it “a last resort”) are the core around which to build an “all of the above” energy policy that combines high-wage, high-skilled, high-status, unionised jobs at home, with independence from Arab oil, from Russian gas, and from coal imported from the ends of the earth, where it has often been dug by child or slave labour.

    We have a responsibility to employ our own people first, even at higher cost, and certainly to do so rather than to import from child or slave labour, or from parts of the world involvement in which imperils our own security. Ask the Greens whether they regret the defeat of the miners in 1985. For exposing the fact that they are not left-wing at all, that one works every time. They are not the only people on whom it can be used.

  5. David Lindsay

    We need an approach to climate change which protects and extends secure employment with civilised wages and working conditions, which encourages economic development around the world, which upholds the right of the working classes and of non-white people to have children, which holds down and as far as practicable reduces the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, and which refuses to restrict travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich.

    Climate change is supposed to be anthropogenic. The human race makes the weather. The burning of carbon is the foundation of the working class, the foundation of the Left, the foundation of human progress (problematic though that term is), the foundation of civilisation.

    We need a celebration of the full compatibility between the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

    The problem with the world is not that it has people in it. Which people, exactly? We all know the answer to that. Rather, people produce wealth, material and otherwise. People are wealth, material and otherwise.

  6. I'm very cross about this.

    Argumentum ad Populum. So even if it is 98% of scientists; it isn’t, then your argument is fallacy. If you believe the drivel you’ve just written then I’m not hopeful but try the link below. More than 31000 scientists more than 9000 of which are PhDs and that’s just the United States. They don’t agree and yes i do understand the science because I have a relevant qualification. Read and you might just learn something or if you prefer save the planet by building sustainability using African corpses as the foundation. Hundreds of millions living on <$1 a day while the west denies them reliable energy. They burn animal dung to cook their food and the smoke kills them but never mind we've got windmills and only the greens are allowed to have compassion, they're saving the planet. It sickens me.

  7. Cole

    But Comrade Corbyn is enthusiastic about clean coal, and he must be right.

  8. Cole

    If the Comrade Corbyn says so, it must be right. The Dear Leader is wise and all seeing. Anyone who disputes this must be a capitalist roader and will be send down the clean (ho,ho) mines for reeducation.

    As for defence, how about reforming the Warsaw Pact? We could join up with progressive comrades in Russia and Belarus.

  9. David Lindsay

    He is. The opposition comes from a kind of pseudo-Left that doesn’t want working-class men to have jobs, and which therefore must believe that Thatcher was right.

  10. David Lindsay

    We buy coal from Russia. We have mountains of our own. But instead of mining that, we buy it from there. And from far, far, far worse than there.

  11. Cole

    Really? Corbyn’s support seems to be mostly from self indulgent Guardianistas.

  12. Cole

    Comrade Corbyn’s environmental policy of reopening coal mines is severely retrograde. We should be getting rid of the damn stuff. But I guess JC shares the climate change denying views of his brother Piers.

  13. Coke

    It’s all a plot by those wicked scientists…

  14. David Lindsay

    Silly little Tory Boy. A character that you are too young to remember.

  15. David Lindsay

    Well, you have found your happy home in the Tory Party, then.

  16. Mike Stallard

    I am surprised that anybody still believes in AGW. I am even more surprised that they still intend to replace good old reliable coal fired power stations with windmills and solar panels when neither work if there is no wind or sun and there are no batteries to store the electricity.
    Since all negotiation in Brussels takes place behind closed doors, Mr Thaysen, you have absolutely no means of telling how decisions about anything are reached in the EU. Greenpeace and other NGOs have an enormous say in the process too, no doubt. But we will not be privy to their private lobbying.

  17. Cole

    Huh? It’s the right wingers who are climate change deniers generally. The idiot Corbyn seems to have joined them. What a clueless buffoon.

  18. David Lindsay

    Where does one even begin?

  19. John Samuel

    The “world famous” Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, run by a creationist and survivalist?

    In which reputable journal have they published their methodology and results?

    It’s worse than a fake.

    Too funny. The gullibles believe an unverifiable petition and deny study after study after study, the world’s scientific institutions and the overwhelming number of papers.

    The 97% consensus of climate scientists believing AGW is happening is based upon the evidence and has been replicated a dozen times over the last decade.'_views_on_climate_change

    Every scientific institution agrees.

    Many explicitly use the word “consensus”

    By papers it’s 99.99% of over 24,000 papers..

    Or just read the journals. Try it. Try and find a reputable recent paper that disagrees.

  20. John Samuel

    The globe warms: surface, oceans and melting ice.

    The surface warms.

    The oceans warm…
    …and rise 3.3 mm per year, up from 1.9 mm per year a century ago.
    …and acidify by 30% since the industrial revolution.

    The earth is losing a trillion tons of ice per year:
    – 159 Gt Antarctic land ice, McMillan el al, GRL (2014),
    + 26 Gt Antarctic sea ice, Holland et al, J Climate (2014) ,
    – 261 Gt Arctic sea ice, PIOMAS,
    – 378 Gt Greenland, Enderlin et al, GRL (2014),
    – 259 Gt other land based glaciers, Gardner et al. Science (2013),
    = – 1,031 Gt, total

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  22. pyrophilia

    i’m shocked anyone still doubts it. Shame on you.

  23. steroflex

    Do you know what?
    I go on a lot of blogs and the general tone is much higher than it is on here. I notice so many assumptions that are defended by pointless personal attacks and friendly websites. I notice quite a lot of very stale arguments too. This is not normal on other blogs.
    If Labour wants to win elections, then you have to be attractive. No?

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