Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Climate justice activists gathered outside a forum attended by fossil fuel executives in New York City on Sunday, September 22, 2019 ahead of the UN climate summit happening this week. "There is a groundswell of support in the U.S. and beyond," writes Lynn and Bassey, "to make the fossil fuel and other polluting industries pay for the damages they have caused." (Photo: 350.org/Twitter)

Want Real Climate Ambition? Keep Polluting Industries Out and Make Them Pay.

The industries that have fueled this crisis should have no part in dictating the solutions—rather, they should be made to pay to address the massive damages they have caused and to finance real solutions to the crisis.

Patti LynnNnimmo BasseyLidy Nacpil

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has convened a climate summit this week, which he hopes will spur ambitious action by countries around the world. While the summit has laudably galvanized people, organizations, and governments globally to gather in New York City, unfortunately, Secretary-General Guterres and many others demanding urgent action are missing critical pieces of the puzzle. No truly ambitious solutions or actions can come to fruition when fossil fuel, agri-business, and other polluting industries are at the table. The industries that have fueled this crisis should have no part in dictating the solutions—rather, they should be made to pay to address the massive damages they have caused and to finance real solutions to the crisis.

Without these pieces of the puzzle in place, we know what we will get at this summit: proposals that will set us firmly down the path of increased global warming. For example, carbon markets and offsets are sure to play a big role. These are false solutions that enable Big Polluters to continue burning fossil fuels and devastating the earth under the guise of climate action. This is particularly galling as the Amazon burns and people in the Bahamas recover from the death and destruction left by Hurricane Dorian.

"Holding these industries liable can unlock hundreds of billions of dollars to help finance the most ambitious, most equitable, and most just solutions we have."

It is also galling because truly ambitious solutions are out there. Communities from the frontlines of climate change—those who have done the least to cause the crisis—have long proposed and advanced ambitious and equitable ways to address this crisis. For example: keeping fossil fuels in the ground, stopping deforestation, and implementing an equitable transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

What countries need to be doing is bringing such people-driven solutions to the climate summit. Just imagine what could happen if all of the power and resources gathered in New York this week were focused on the quickest and most equitable way to end fossil fuel extraction and transition completely to renewable energy. That would be true ambition.

This kind of ambition is exactly what people are demanding—and it will only be possible when polluting industries are not obstructing the process. For example, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)—one of Big Polluters’ most prominent trade groups founded by BP and includes Shell and Chevron among its members—is concurrently hosting a two-day “carbon forum” promoting “business-driven climate solutions.” If government leaders and civil society groups were truly serious about ambition, they would refuse to attend, knowing that such a forum is designed to advance false solutions leading us to a world where warming far exceeds safe limits.

In reality, these polluting industries, their front groups, and governments representing their interests (like the U.S.) have spent more than 20 years in the U.N. climate treaty process delaying, watering down, and blocking solutions to effectively and equitably address climate change. So it’s no surprise that they are doing the same this week.

And that’s why it’s vital that the movement to implement a conflicts-of-interest policy in the U.N. climate treaty succeeds. But removing the obstruction of Big Polluters and trade associations like IETA from policymaking is just the first step toward ensuring true climate solutions. Holding polluting industries liable for the damage they have caused is just as vital.

Take the fossil fuel industry: Over the past few years, media exposés have revealed that corporations like Exxon knew for decades that burning fossil fuels would lead to climate change. The fossil fuel industry then spent decades and hundreds of billions of dollars manufacturing doubt about the causes of climate change, discrediting science, and buying political influence. It ensured decades of increased emissions accompanied by stagnated climate policy.

There is a groundswell of support in the U.S. and beyond to make the fossil fuel and other polluting industries pay for the damages they have caused. Holding these industries liable can unlock hundreds of billions of dollars to help finance the most ambitious, most equitable, and most just solutions we have.

Communities on the front lines of climate change did not cause the crisis, but they are paying the highest price. They need and are owed funding to implement real solutions that will actually turn the tide toward a just response to this global crisis. The U.N. Secretary-General and policymakers alike must wake up to the fact that polluting industries and their backers should no longer be allowed to obstruct climate justice. Rather, we must make them pay—and ensure those funds are used to respond to damage already done and implement the solutions we need to forge our way to a just, livable future for all.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Patti Lynn

Patti Lynn

Patti Lynn is the executive director of Corporate Accountability, which stops transnational corporations from devastating democracy, trampling human rights, and destroying our planet. Alongside governmental and NGO allies, Corporate Accountability helped to rein in Big Tobacco by ensuring the adoption of the 2003 UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first legally binding treaty of the WHO. Patti has been with the organization for over 20 years.

Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey is the director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an ecological think-tank based in Nigeria.

Lidy Nacpil

Lidy Nacpil

Lidy Nacpil is the co-coordinator of the Asia Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, the co-coordinator of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, and a member of the global Coordinating Committee of the Global Alliance on Tax Justice. She also serves as the convenor of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Texans Deserved Better Than This': Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Ban in Place

The nation's high court set a date to hear a pair of legal challenges to the "horrific" restrictions.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Like It Never Happened': Federal Judge Tosses Trump Attack on Clean Water Rule

Denying a Biden administration request to temporarily retain the rule, the judge reestablished "the careful balance of state and federal power to protect clean water that Congress intended when it wrote the Clean Water Act."

Brett Wilkins ·


Self-Proclaimed Pro-Climate Corporations Have Been Giving Thousands to Manchin and Sinema

"As if it wasn't enough that wealthy polluters have bankrolled Sen. Manchin during his fight against common-sense climate solutions—now companies that claim to value protecting the environment have opened their pocketbooks as well."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo