THERE were two logos on the grey felt conference bags offered to delegates at the recent COP19 United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw.
One was the official COP19 logo, embroidered onto the flap of the document bag inside which negotiators, observers and UN staff could carry around the draft texts which were supposed to pave the way for a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
Nestled unashamedly and proudly alongside this COP19 logo was the official mark of the Lotos Group – an oil and gas company majority owned by the Polish Government.
The juxtaposition was emblematic of the talks in Warsaw, which some observers described as the most “corporate captured yet” of any of the United Nations climate talks since the first “Conference of Parties” was convened in Berlin, Germany, in 1995.
Alongside LOTOS Group, other major corporate sponsors of COP19 included fossil fuel energy giant Alstom Power – delegates were greeted with that company’s logo whenever they took a drink from the free water coolers scattered around Poland’s National Stadium, the venue for the talks.
The main negotiating rooms and plenary rooms were elaborately constructed canvas and steel marquees on the stadium’s playing surface and were provided with cash from another sponsor, ArcelorMittal, which lays claim to be the “world’s leading steel and mining company.”
Seats and coffee tables came from Dubai’s government-owned airline Emirates. Pen sets and organic notebooks? Thanks go to Polska Grupa Energetyczna — operator of more than 40 coal power stations, including the coal-fired Bełchatów Power Plant — one of the biggest fossil power plants on the planet.
As if rubbing the delegates’ faces in fossil fuels wasn’t enough, the Polish government, as official hosts and organisers of the COP19 talks, also hosted a two-day international “clean coal” conference in the same city at the start of the second week of the climate talks. It was this move which many of the hundreds of environment and civil society group members voiced as a catalyst for their decision to stage an unprecedented walkout from the talks with a day of negotiations left to go.
Iain Keith, a senior campaigner at Avaaz.org, told DeSmogBlog at the talks that “inviting coal to be the voice of business” at the Warsaw talks had been a “a terrible choice” and had “created a huge amount of bad will.”
In a guide released during the talks, research groups Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute rebranded the event the “Conference of Polluters” and documented the full extent of the corporate involvement at COP19. The report said:
Big business, industry and finance, keen to set the agenda and shape the rules in the interests of their profits – and at the expense of climate justice – have infiltrated COP19.
Corporate capture on the scale that is exhibited at COP19 runs the risk of rendering the UN climate negotiations not merely ineffective, but counterproductive to tackling climate change.
It is time for the UN and the international community to open its eyes to corporate spin and powerful vested interests, and work towards real alternatives that embody the principles of social, environmental and climate justice.
The report – COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying: Climate crooks and the Polish government’s partners in crime – also details some of the lobbying and industry organisations that are currently registered to attend the series of COP talks, including COP19.
These include the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, the World Coal Association, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association and the International Chamber of Commerce.
The report is also critical of groups such as the Carbon Markets and Investors Association and the International Emissions Trading Association, which in advocating for expansion of carbon markets and emissions trading the report says are part of a “false solution.”
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Pascoe Sabido, of CEO and a co-author of the report, said: “These organisations are here on the inside and they have their logos plastered all over this conference centre. They are able to wrap themselves in the colours of the UN and claim – wrongly of course – to be climate champions, and that’s incredibly damaging.”