Event on corporate influence

Big oil has unfair influence on climate negotiations.

by Brigette DePape

Given that corporate influence is at the root of why countries are failing to take meaningful action on climate change, the panel on corporate influence at the UN at the University of KwaZuluNatal today provided a lot of valuable insights.

The panel started with an overview from Richard Girard from the Polaris Institute about corporate influence at UN negotiations drawing from Polaris’ report on the subject. The key point is that within the UN process generally, there has been a shift from regulation to collaboration with corporations – part of thethe global spread of privatization and de-regulation.

We heard from panelists about case studies of corporate influence on their country’s policies. First we heard from a speaker from Nigeria, the prime example of a Petro State where industry literally is the government – and people have actually been killed for speaking out against corporate influence.

Then we moved on to hearing from the world’s emerging petro-state – Canada. CYD’s own Chris Bisson provided a lively and well-informed analysis of the situation. He explains how the oil industry is influencing Canadian climate policy, primarily through lobbying and donations to the Conservative party, and how Canada repays the corporate lobby that props them up, primarily through subsidies, lobbying to derail progressive legislation abroad (the EU Fuel Quality Directive as an example) and through industry funded studies that underplay the harm caused by the Tar Sands.

What impact has the corporate lobby had? Richard Girard further explained that at negotiations the corporate lobby has succeeded in pushing for and achieving market based solutions, such as REDD, which allow developing countries like Canada gain credits for having emissions reductions projects in developing countries, to essentially evade their responsibility for their own emissions and to keep polluting in their country.

What impact has the corporate lobby had in Canada? The most obvious harm done by the oil lobby is that they have been a key player in influencing our government prior to the negotiations to abandon Kyoto. Corporations have instead promoted empty agreements called pledge and review, where governments make loose agreements that are not legally binding and offer no guarantees they will reduce emissions.

A very valuable part of the discussion was receiving an update on Canadian corporations infiltrate the UN process to derail progress here in Durban happening before our eyes.

What’s frightening is that these corporations are walking around the hallways of the UNFCCC beside the government officials who are deciding on our future. We know what they are whispering in their ears – essentially to stop progress for profit.

Most relevant to us in Canada are the Canadian corporations that are among us. The Canadian corporations present at this year’s negotiations are: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Brinkman, TransCanada, Rio Tinto (Alcan, a huge Canadian aluminum company, that became part of Rio Tinto four years ago), Shell, Chevron, and Epson.

By far the most significant player is CAPP. They represent all oil companies in Canada. So in other words, all Canadian oil companies are represented at the UNFCCC.

Here at the Summit, there will also be Industry events organized by corporations to schmooze with government. A major event this year is the World Climate Summit, which brings together corporations and government delegates.

You have probably all heard of the slogan “keep the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole”. The speaker from Nigeria made an essential addition to this slogan – keep the tar in the sands. How? As oil companies tell our government what to do and who are government so blindly obeys – at our expense, we need to continue to challenge the penetrating influence of oil.



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  1. […] climate injustice? Will Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister, really explain why he is here negotiating on behalf of polluting corporations rather than the people living in […]

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