Kick big polluters out of climate policy, civil society insists

Civil society activists at the Paris climate summit (PHOTO: ClimateReporters/Atayi Babs)
Civil society activists at the Paris climate summit (PHOTO: ClimateReporters/Atayi Babs)

The demand to tackle conflict of interest within the UNFCCC has over the years been raised by several actors including governments and civil society.

However, to date, progress has been slow, notably, due to some cosy relationships formed between politics and the fossil fuel sector lobbyists.

It is for this reason that a global coalition of civil society groups is calling for a strong conflict of interest policy for the UNFCCC to decisively deal with the challenge.

The coalition, supported by the European Parliament has released a report highlighting revolving doors between the fossil fuel industry and high level politicians, ministers, regulators, and advisors.

According to the study, titled “Revolving doors and the fossil fuel industry,” carried out in 13 European countries, finds that failure to deal with conflict of interest by the EU is due to cosy relationships built up with the fossil fuel sector over the years, and calls for the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy that would avoid the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international climate change negotiations.

“There is a revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby all across Europe,” said Max Andersson, Member of the European Parliament, at the Bonn Climate Talks. “It’s not just a handful of cases—it is systematic. The fossil fuel industry has an enormous economic interest in delaying climate action and the revolving door between politics and the fossils fuel lobby is a serious cause for alarm.”

According to Andersson, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to as close as 1.5 degrees as possible, there is need to clamp down on conflict of interest to stop coal, gas and oil from leaving “their dirty fingerprints over our climate policy.”

He says European governments should support the call for a common sense conflict of interest policy so that the next COP can deliver an outcome that will put the world on the road towards a climate in balance.

And adding his voice to the debate, Augustine Njamshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), believes fossil fuel lobbyists have both a direct and indirect influence on climate policy.

Njamshi says the lack of ambition from developed parties in terms of emission cuts as well as provision of finance for developing parties is a result of bad influence from big polluters.

“For instance, in my opinion, delayed climate action, in particular, climate finance for African countries, is indirectly linked to big polluter influence,” said Njamshi. “They have a lot to lose if money is made available for countries to carry out their climate actions because their businesses depend on the current state of affairs.”

Meanwhile, Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory argued for strong advocacy to win the battle against big polluters having a field day at the UNFCCC negotiations.

“Strong advocacy and policy on conflict of interest should be adopted or else, the interests of fossil fuel sector will continue to have huge influence on climate policy,” said Sabido.

The conclusion of the report is that the revolving door phenomenon is systematic and widespread, as the study revealed at least 88 cases of revolving doors between ministers, advisors, regulators and politicians.

A further disturbing finding is that there is lack of adequate legislation to ensure that climate-policy making is not unduly influenced be vested interests, and where legislation exists, it is not properly applied.

The CSO coalition has therefore called for urgent action by interested parties to the UNFCCC to save climate policy from what they have called dirty fingerprints of big polluters.   

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