Meet the Corporate Villains Sponsoring the COP21 Climate Talks

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Meet the Corporate Villains Sponsoring the COP21 Climate Talks

'The effort of these corporations to green-wash their ongoing damage of the planet in order increase profit and gain public support is offensive,' said Cindy Wiesner of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Climate justice advocates say heavy role of private sector in upcoming Paris climate negotiations is a sign that the conference has already been taken over by corporations. (Photo: International Journal of Socialist Renewal)

Fresh revelations that yet another round of United Nations climate talks—this time the upcoming negotiations in Paris—will be sponsored by some of the very corporations driving global warming have been met with outrage and alarm that the global process continues to be "captured by big polluters."

Pierre-Henri Guignard, Secretary-General of the UN Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21), unveiled the list of corporate sponsors on Wednesday. "We are building a very business friendly COP which will show the commitment of the private sector to the spirit of the convention," he stated.

But climate justice advocates say that by being "business friendly," the conference is, in fact, hostile to the public good—and the planet itself.

"Today's announcement of the corporate sponsors of the COP21 exposes the deep contradiction in UN COP process and their cozy relationship with the very corporations who are driving the climate crisis," Cindy Wiesner of the U.S.-based Grassroots Global Justice Alliance told Common Dreams. "The effort of these corporations to green-wash their ongoing damage of the planet in order increase profit and gain public support is offensive." 

The French government claims the private sector will foot a large portion of the bill—as much as 20 percent—for the conference, according to a senior foreign ministry official cited by AFP.

"The public interest demands that these talks not be polluted by the private interests represented by these companies. Would we entrust the fight against tobacco to cigarette manufacturers? Why do it for climate policy?"
Maxime Combes, ATTAC France

According to Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory, this historically high level of private funding bodes poorly for the talks: "Twenty percent of private funding is more than at the COP19 in Warsaw in 2013. Back then, NGOs, social movements and trade unions left the negotiations to protest the takeover of the talks by industry and polluting lobbies."

And who are the corporations financing the November 30th to December 11th conference—purportedly held to "achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C?"

They include the French energy companies Engie and EDF, whose coal plants, according to Malika Peyraut of Friends of the Earth, "are equivalent to nearly half of France's entire emissions."

They also include the French bank BNP-Paribas, which "accounts for half of the total support—now totaling more than 30 billion euros—provided by French banks to the coal industry between 2005 and April 2014," according to the global NGO network Bank Track.

The 20 corporate sponsors revealed by Guignard on Wednesday constitute just the first group, with many more to come. For years, civil society and social movement organizations around the world have sounded the alarm about the heavy role of corporations in UN climate talks—a reality that has prompted the organization of alternative "People's Summits," including the grassroots gathering in Lima, Peru last year.

Climate justice advocates say that the financial backers of the Paris talks unveiled so far already pose a grave threat.

"The public interest demands that these talks not be polluted by the private interests represented by these companies," said Maxime Combes of ATTAC France in a press statement released Wednesday. "Would we entrust the fight against tobacco to cigarette manufacturers? Why do it for climate policy?"

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