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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