Campaigners are calling for polluters to be denied access to this year’s pivotal COP26 summit and locked out of all future UN climate talks.
A letter published today and signed by over 170 grassroots groups urged the government to “kick out” polluters from sponsoring or even visiting the summit, claiming their presence is “poisoning” the climate debate.
The letter by campaign group Glasgow Calls Out Polluters reads: “To protect vulnerable communities we urgently need a just transition to a fossil-free world but many polluters, whose profits depend on inaction, won’t let this happen,”
“The UK Government must take a firm stance and kick climate polluters out of the 2021 UN climate talks in Glasgow.”
The letter, addressed to COP26 President Alok Sharma, sets out five steps to achieve a “fossil-free and polluter-free” summit, instructing the government not to give UK passes to polluters or their industry representatives, to refuse them money, and to permanently “lock polluters out” of negotiations.
Campaigners also call for the government to deliver climate justice by prioritising the voices of those worst affected by climate change, as well as a meeting “at the earliest possible opportunity” to discuss how their demands can be met.
Reacting to the letter, Julia Steinberger, Professor of Societal Challenges of Climate Change at the University of Lausanne, said the time for polluters to be granted such platforms was over.
“For too long, polluting industries who contribute to climate breakdown have had a privileged seat at the negotiations table, with larger access to governments than those working to preserve the climate,” she told DeSmog.
“It is really the same as welcoming tobacco companies to a medical conference deciding on how to prevent lung cancer. It must stop.”
Place at the table
Major fossil fuel companies have previously attended UN climate negotiations, leading to hundreds of activists staging a sit-in on the final day of COP24 in 2018.
While environmentalists welcomed the apparent rejection of fossil fuel companies such as BP, Shell and Equinor at this summit so far, they were quick to point out that many of the selected sponsors do have polluting ties.
These include energy giant SSE, whose gas-fired power station at Peterhead emitted 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year, making it the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.
Other sponsors to be announced so far also include NatWest. A DeSmog investigation recently found that 58 percent of NatWest board directors have multiple past or current ties to high carbon industries, including to polluting energy companies and aviation.
Cat Scothorne, from Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, told DeSmog: “Actions that can meaningfully address the climate crisis often conflict with the profit of corporations in the Global North. Consequently, the scale of action at these summits is greatly reduced. It’s time for the interests of people and the planet to be put before profit and plunder. If not, the consequences will be even graver than what we are witnessing.”
The campaign group says polluters must be kept out under a Conflict of Interest Policy: an additional amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which would outline who can and cannot attend the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations.
At other summits such as the World Health Organisation talks, parties with vested interests and whose financial aims do not align with government commitments are excluded, such as tobacco companies and their lobbyists.
Signatory to the letter, Eilidh Robb of UK Youth Climate Coalition, said that the pandemic is no excuse for the UK government to delay climate action: “To speed things up we need to stop the preferential treatment of large polluters, by clearing the space to make room for people-centered solutions to climate change.”
A COP26 spokesperson told DeSmog: “Any business applying to be a COP26 sponsor, or to have pavilion or exhibition space in the UK Government managed COP26 areas in Glasgow, will need to have strong climate credentials. This means setting ambitious net zero commitments by 2050 or earlier, with a credible short term action plan to achieve this, such as Science Based Targets.”
Main image: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing St via Flickr. Credit: Crown Copyright