16 november 2016

Marrakech climate talks: US accepts petition calling for fossil fuel lobbyists to be excluded

Petition supports nations such as Ecuador and Venezuela that tried to initiate a conflict of interests policy

Michael Slezak, The Guardian, Wednesday 16 November 2016

A petition calling for fossil fuel lobbyists to be excluded from the UN climate change negotiations has been forced into the hands of the US delegation in Morocco, where almost 200 nations are meeting to work out ways to implement the 2015 Paris agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The US delegation initially said it could not formally receive the petition signed by more than 500,000 people but later contacted Corporate Accountability International, agreeing to receive it on Wednesday.

The development followed a side event on Monday at the meeting in Marrakech, headed by the Ecuadorian delegation, where parties to the Paris agreement and non-government organisations met to discuss why a conflict of interests policy was needed and what it might look like.

The petition, spearheaded by Corporate Accountability International, calls for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to create a policy that would screen non-state participants of meetings for conflicts of interests.

It was written in support of moves by Ecuador, Venezuela and other developing nations representing the majority of the world’s population, who tried to initiate a conflict of interests policy in May.

They argued that groups representing fossil fuel companies, whose net worth can be larger than the GDPs of developing nations, and who have funded climate change denial, should not be allowed in policy negotiations without being screened for conflicts of interest.

That move was blocked by delegations representing rich nations including the EU, the US, UK and Australia, which argued that the negotiations should be “open” and that there was no clear definition of a “conflict of interest”.

“I stand with the governments calling for an end to big polluter conflicts of interest at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” the petition reads. “In order for the UNFCCC to create strong climate policy that protects people and the planet from climate catastrophe, we need to remove big polluters from the policymaking table.”

In a statement, the lead negotiator for the Ecuadorian delegation said: “Too much is at stake to continue allowing the world’s biggest polluters and their agents to undermine this process.”

He said the responsibility of saving the planet could not be left up to “the industries and their corporate powers that got us here”.

Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International said he and a group of activists from around the world took the US delegation by surprise in Marrakech.

“We walked into the US delegation office, walked right across the threshold and started talking to the first person we ran into about what we were there to do,” Bragg said.

The group was then taken to a closed-door meeting with press advisers, who took the petition but told the group they could not officially receive it. A press adviser later emailed Bragg, saying she would be able to accept it at 10am on Wednesday, local time.

Bragg said the group would take the opportunity to discuss the issue with the US delegation.

He said the the business models of fossil fuel companies was premised on the exact activity that is causing climate change. “You can have Shell and BP talking about being part of the solution but money talks,” he said. “That’s not what their intention is.”

Bragg said the issue was particularly important after the election of Donald Trump in the US.

“It’s hard to believe that the US delegation is excited to carry out the future Trump administration’s denialist assault on climate policy,” he said. “So, the best thing they can do for the planet is to stop blocking the policies that will help ensure that Trump, and the fossil fuel industry he’s tied himself to, have as little influence on the UNFCCC as possible.”

In May, the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries – a collection of more than 20 countries representing most of the world’s population – pushed for a report to be prepared examining how “the United Nations system and other intergovernmental forums … identify and minimise the risk of conflicts of interest”.

The call was blocked by rich countries but several developing nations rose to speak passionately about the issue, including Venezuela, Ecuador and China.

Besides handing the petition to the US delegation, Corporate Accountability International is planning a protest action on the issue later this week, Bragg said.

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