Is Kicking Big Polluters Out of Climate Policy a Big Step Towards Climate Change Mitigation?

by Rodgers Phiri
(Lusaka, Zambia)

It's a question we need to answer consciously

It's a question we need to answer consciously

Fossil fuel companies are one of the major contributors to climate change in Zambia and beyond. The world’s largest polluters and their greenhouse gas emissions have brought us to the brink of global disaster.

And they’ve managed to position themselves as the key players in finding a solution to climate change, for the very problems they’ve created. And yet they are not willing to engage in green energy production such as the use of solar energy and biogas.

Wherever climate policy is being made, representatives of the world’s largest polluting industries are there to show false concern over climate change. They are the major sponsors of these big climate change conferences, and yet engage in trade which does not support the outcomes of the conferences they sponsor.

These big polluters are no doubt watering down policy, blocking regulations, and delaying urgently needed progress.

How Have the Big Polluters Blocked Progress on Climate Policy?

Fossil fuel companies more often question the scientific consensus around climate change.

The world’s largest polluters have promoted the questionable findings of scientists that deny and undermine sound and widely accepted climate science.

This implies that they are supporting climate change conferences and drilling holes in the boat where climate change mitigation measures are to be implemented. Why then should they be part of COP21?

Conflict of Interest

Big polluters are spending millions on lobbying delegates and elected officials, such as members of parliament and ministers. For instance, in 2000, the oil and gas industry lobbied the U.S. government intensely to reject the Kyoto Protocol (part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC).

It succeeded, helping “to kill implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which would have forced the U.S. and other countries to reduce their use of fossil fuels,” according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

It is encouraging to note that Sweden is not giving fossil fuel companies a chance to disturb its vision to become the first fossil fuel- free country in the world. Other countries and conference organisers can learn from Sweden, as they will give climate activists hope for a world with a clean climate.

From all this, I see reasons for kicking big polluters out of COP21 and other future climate policy conferences.

Suspicious Sponsoring

In Zambia and beyond, fossil fuel companies sponsor climate change conferences of the parties (COPs) and concurrent events.

For instance, COP19 in Warsaw was sponsored by Polish Energy Group: Poland’s largest and dirtiest power corporation.

On the other hand, the World Coal Association hosted a summit on “clean coal” concurrent with the treaty talks.

Surprisingly, COP21 in Paris will be sponsored by corporations EDF and ENGIE, whose coal operations contribute to the equivalent of nearly 50% of France’s emissions. Is this a reason why big polluters should continue being part of climate policy?

Would we entrust the fight against tobacco to cigarette manufacturers? Of course not; the fight would surely be polluted by the cigarette manufacturers. The same applies to climate change; we cannot entrust the fight for a better climate to big polluters.

These big polluters are still polluting the discussions of the conferences, as they always have.

Bold Action Needed

It will be a big step to having fruitful climate conferences and a better climate in the world if we stop giving big polluters a chance to be part of our climate conferences.

There is a need to protect climate policy from the world's big polluters.

If the international community can successfully protect climate policymaking from the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry and other polluting industries, the UNFCCC and all future agreements within it will be powerful tools to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

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