Top corporate sponsors of the climate talks in Paris have long histories of destroying the environment and interfering in environmental policymaking that are at odds with the green image they’re seeking to project by being part of COP21.
Global banking giant BNP Paribas, French utility Électricité de France (EDF) and fossil fuel conglomerates Engie (formerly GDF Suez) and Suez Environnement, all official COP21 sponsors, are the focus of a new report from Corporate Accountability International that details the companies’ environmental abuses and aggressive lobbying efforts to undermine environmental and climate policy.
All four either directly own or have investments in some of the most emissions-intensive energy projects in the world, from oil sands in Canada to fracking in the UK and coal-fired power in India — conflicts of interest that make it impossible for them to contribute meaningfully to any sound climate policy, the report’s authors argue.
“Inviting some of the world’s biggest polluters to pay for the COP is akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house,” Patti Lynn, executive director of Corporate Accountability International, said in a statement. “We must eliminate this conflict of interest before COPs become corporate tradeshows for false market-based solutions.”
Between 2005 and 2014, for instance, BNP Paribas provided half of all financing made available to the coal industry by French banks, some €15.5 billion ($16.4 billion). The company is also a major financial driver behind the development of Canada’s tar sands.
Engie owns 30 coal plants around the world and is aggressively expanding its investments in fracked gas, the authors of the report found, which is probably why the company was responsible for the equivalent of 131 megatons of CO2 emissions last year.
EDF, meanwhile, says it is “committed to a decarbonized world” yet is an active member of BusinessEurope, a group that openly opposes the “market deployment of energy produced from renewable sources,” according to the report.
According to another study out this week, many of the top corporate sponsors of COP21 — including EDF, Engie and BNP Paribas — are failing to report their own emissions in any kind of public, transparent way.
That means that even as these companies are lending their support to climate talks that are intended to hold all parties accountable for doing their share in addressing the climate crisis, they are refusing to make the information public that would be needed to hold them accountable.
Sponsoring the Paris climate talks is just one of many ways corporations seek to protect their profits by obstructing efforts to take action on climate change.
Political and economic interference plus well-coordinated public misinformation campaigns have also helped delay climate action while shifting the focus of negotiations over how to respond to global warming onto market-based solutions like carbon trading and techno-fixes like carbon capture and sequestration, the authors of the Corporate Accountability report found.
Corporate influence over the entire global climate policy debate is “pervasive,” the report’s authors write.
“As a result, the entire UNFCCC process runs the risk of obstruction, derailment, or cooptation by transnational corporate polluters. In fact, even before the meetings commence, transnational corporations have secured a capacity to shape or set the terms of any potential treaty through decades of inserting themselves into the policymaking process.”
Image Credit: Protest outside Bank of the West headquarters in San Francisco in the run-up to COP21. Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas. Photo by Peg Hunter.