I went to an enlightening session run by Corporate Europe Observatory on how this COP is the most obviously influenced by corporate interests and the significant greenwash by sponsors claiming their polluting products are sustainable. Whilst it is often suggested, it is less easy to demonstrate the greenwash and influence corporates have on these events and general politics [although see the bottom of this post for one quick example]. Corporate capture has a massive impact on these negotiations through lobbying, funding, and giving weight to solutions which are in their interests rather than the common interest thus ultimately distorting the debate and discourses of finding solutions to anthropogenic climate change.
I want to tread very carefully here and be careful of the general anti-capitalism, anti-corporation, socialist, communist labels I’m opening myself up to here. Labels are used too quickly and sully useful climate change debate. Whilst undoubtedly some corporates are using very dirty tactics, to avoid the labels and maintain integrity, I think it is vital to adapt the adage ‘attack the point, not the person’ to ‘attack the action, not the corporation’. It is also important to not generalise and say that one bad action makes a bad corporation, but conversely it should be known if a corporation has a pattern of suspicious, unsustainable and non-transparent actions, so they can be held accountable and responsible.
It is already difficult enough to achieve proper corporate social and environmental responsibility given the power imbalances that exist. Financially it is more difficult as it is impossible for civil society and social enterprises to compete with large corporations that have the money to sponsor such conferences. Given the lack of opportunity for civil society and smaller enterprises to have their agenda known through sponsorship partner profiles, this makes me question the ethics and legitimacy of such sponsorship options given there is a systemic bias of corporate representation.
COP19 corporate capture and greenwash:
LOTOS Group: As the second largest Polish, majority state-owned, oil company and COP19 partner, LOTOS are providing 11,000 felt document bags for the conference attendees. Its partner webpage states “LOTOS’s petroleum is products pose probably the lowest possible nuisance to the environment". LOTOS lobbies through their astroturf company and front groups such as the Citizens Coalition for Responsible Energy which help support their interests in oil and shale gas. Through their wide web of connections in various lobby groups, they fight tighter regulation and promote EU energy security “by enabling the cheapest and most available indigenous energy sources”. To have such a company as a partner of COP19 is highly questionable given their clear interests which I believe are mutually exclusive with the mitigation required.
For more information – visit Corporate Observatory Europe
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