Fossil Fuel Companies Desperate to Influence Decisions at COP21

Following the launch of the International Solar Alliance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris last week, the Guardian newspaper has reported that the companies involved in the alliance include Areva, Engie, Enel, HSBC France and Tata Steel. A recent report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) has shamed Engie for its disgraceful environmental record and has called for the cancellation of its official sponsorship of COP21. Earlier this year, Engie announced that it will not build new coal plants.

Replying to the claims made by CAI, Engie replied that, ‘All of us are concerned by the question of climate: governments, companies and citizens. Some actors, like ENGIE, are already mobilised and propose solutions in order to reduce greenhouse gas. ENGIE supports an equitable world climate agreement in order to limit global warming to 2°C. Energy production and consumption is responsible for 60% of global Greenhouse gases emissions, this means that we need to achieve the energy transition now. ENGIE is well aware of this challenge and is determined to become a leader of the energy transition. For that, we need strong economic signals in order to redirect investments towards low-carbon technologies. For this reason, the generalisation of carbon pricing is key.’

A statement from the CAI says that ‘Engie, an early sponsor of COP21, is a polluter with few rivals. In 2014, the corporation was directly responsible for more than 131 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the pollution emitted from driving around the globe 12 million times.’

A petition for ‘keeping the polluters out of climate policy’ has garnered support of around 565,720 people so far. Influence Map, a UK-based non-profit has pointed out that, corporate giants like ‘Shell, BP and Total have challenged the governments of the world to put a price on carbon before COP21 and that they are obstructive towards climate policy. These oil companies use trade associations to strengthen this objective.’

In October this year, Engie announced that the group will not build more new coal-fired plants. “On top of this, Engie is planning to sell some of its coal power plants instead of closing them down. The French state is directly responsible for Engie’s greenwashing activities as it owns 33% of its shares and accepted to put them in their list of COP21 sponsors,” said Célia Gautier, policy advisor at Climate Action Network France.

A woman wears a gas mask during a protest rally in Frankfurt on Sunday, November 29, 2015, to promote climate protection ahead of the Paris Climate Conference, COP2. (Photo: AP)
A woman wears a gas mask during a protest rally in Frankfurt on Sunday, November 29, 2015, to promote climate protection ahead of the Paris Climate Conference, COP2. (Photo: AP)

In 2014, allegations were made by locals and environmental groups in relation to the environmental and health impact of AREVA’s mining operations in Niger in a three-part documentary from Al Jazeera. The documentary chronicles the extent of damage the Tuareg people are going through because of Areva’s mining operations in Niger. Conversely, Areva responded to the allegations in the documentary and the rebuttal was published on Al Jazeera. Collaborating with Engie and Areva on the Solar Alliance may put India in a tough spot at the negotiating table.

Since November 28, EDF has been promoting a sponsored hashtag, #Objectif2degres on Twitter. This comes at a time when 1.5 degrees Celsius limit is gaining wider acceptance amongst world leaders. French President Francois Hollande mentioned the importance of 1.5 degrees limit in his speech and a need for a world below 2 degrees.

While the rhetoric of President Obama and his Global North peers implies a desire for action, the US and others continue to be primary obstacles to ambitious and necessary action. Until these leaders address the toxic influence the fossil fuel industry and other big polluters have on their policy platforms, this ambition gap will only grow. If the leaders won’t do it, parties must. It’s time to kick big polluters out of the climate policymaking process, both at the UNFCCC and at home in national governments.

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, Corporate Accountability International

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group has been advocating for 1.5 degrees limit for a long time now. The group has said that ‘For the LDCs, economic development, regional food security, ecosystems, and the very survival of their populations and livelihoods are at risk if talks aim only at a 2°C world. Countries must commit to a more ambitious long-term pathway to limit global average temperature increase to below 1.5°C by the end of the century.’

In a bid to buy some more time in plundering natural resources and destroying the natural ecosystems, fossil fuel companies are not only putting the LDCs at a serious risk but also disrupting the climate talks for a weak agreement that will only serve the purpose of those who do not care about the future of this planet.

Author: Pari Trivedi

Photo Courtesy: Pari Trivedi

This article was originally published on December 9, 2015 on