Energy Ministers To Mingle With CEOs of High-Carbon Companies at COP26 Business Dinner

Campaigners have described the event in Glasgow as a “farce” and a “corporate schmoozefest”.
Energy Ministers To Mingle With CEOs of High-Carbon Companies at COP26 Business Dinner
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Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is one of 600 attendees at a business dinner hosted by the Confederation of British Industry. Credit: Policy Exchange (CC BY 2.0)

UK energy ministers attending the COP26 climate summit will tonight socialise with the CEOs of highly-polluting companies, including HSBC and Heathrow Airport.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Scotland secretary Alister Jack are among the 600 expected attendees at the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) event in Glasgow, Politico reported earlier today.

US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are due to speak at the sold-out dinner, which is being held in an undisclosed location in Scotland’s biggest city.

At the dinner, CBI director general Tony Danker is set to tell the audience that “only serious business action can keep 1.5C alive” and that clean energy is essential to “power our world”.

Polluting Companies

Danker will also speak of the importance of “business leadership” at the dinner, which was promoted to ticket-buyers as a “unique networking opportunity” and a place to entertain clients.

While the speeches are expected to focus on the positive impact of businesses in limiting global heating to the 1.5C Paris Agreement target, a number of prominent invitees represent companies with huge carbon footprints.

HSBC, whose chief executive Ian Stuart is expected to attend, is the 13th biggest funder of fossil fuels in the world, according to the Rainforest Action Network. The bank has invested nearly £80 billion in fossil fuel projects since the Paris Agreement six years ago.

Also due to attend is John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow. A recent report found the airport to be the second highest-emitting airport in the world, with its passengers contributing as much to climate change as four coal-fired power plants.

US investment bank BNY Mellon is also represented at the gala by Vice President Susan Neale. The company currently has over $70 million invested in fossil fuels, according to Fossil Free Funds, a platform that looks at the climate impact of mutual funds.

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of consumer goods company Reckitt – one of the principal sponsors at the summit – is also expected to attend the event. An analysis by Scottish investigative outlet The Ferret found the company’s emissions totalled nearly 36 million tonnes in 2020. 

Reckitt responded to the criticism by claiming that 75 percent of its 2020 emissions were caused by electricity and energy used to operate its appliances by people at home. It also said it had reduced the direct carbon footprint from its factories by 50 per cent since 2012. 

‘Farce’

Attendees from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy include Kwarteng and Jack, along with energy ministers Greg Hands and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

DeSmog recently revealed that UK ministers had met one-on-one with fossil fuel and biomass producers nine times as often as renewables, since Kwarteng took on the energy portfolio in July 2019.

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has recently emphasised his support for new oil and gas projects, having said the controversial Cambo oilfield should “100% open”.

The event is sponsored by strategic partner Weir, a Scottish engineering company which last year announced it would focus on mining after suffering losses in oil and gas. The company is responsible for mining the majority of the world’s copper.

Corporate partners are McKinsey Sustainability and Vodafone. A recent DeSmog investigation noted McKinsey had recently been criticised by its own employees for its work with big polluters. The firm has a long history of consulting on forestry and offsetting schemes, facing regular criticism from campaigners for exaggerating the environmental impact of such measures.

Scott Tully, from campaign group Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, described the event as a “back-slapping farce” and called on activists to “stand against these vacuous corporate schmoozefests”.

“We know that this crowd of people, including Kwasi Kwarteng, are perpetuating the crisis, not leading us to the safe green world we so desperately need,” he said.

Kevin Anderson, Professor of energy and climate change in the school of mechanical, aerospace and civil engineering at the University of Manchester, told DeSmog: “Those attending the CBI dinner will no doubt appear to nod earnestly and subsequently offer polite applause, having half listened to the eloquent speeches of the business-as-usual peddlers.

“They will then leave and over the coming days blend into the fog of delusion that pervades much of the COP26 Blue Zone. It’s 2021 and our top-down leaders of politics, business and media are still wedded to the same socio-economic model and powerstructures that underpin our relentless rise in emissions, 31 years after the first IPCC report.”

A Greenpeace spokesperson commented: “CBI bosses have been urging the UK to do more to tackle the climate emergency. 

“Perhaps they’ll be able to persuade some of their dinner guests, especially bankers, airport bosses and oil industry consultants, to do the same.”

All organisations and individuals referenced in the article were contacted for comment.

UPDATED (05/11/21): This article has been updated to include the comments of Professor Kevin Anderson.

Energy Ministers To Mingle With CEOs of High-Carbon Companies at COP26 Business Dinner
Phoebe is Senior Reporter at DeSmog. She previously trained as a news reporter across local titles in Essex and East London, with her work since appearing in the Independent, Evening Standard, The Sun Online, Deutsche Welle, and The Local and Prospect Magazine.

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