Should dirty energy companies have a voice in climate talks? Can government figures, known to receive money from the oil and gas industry, be trusted to represent the best interests of the planet over those of the people that fund their campaigns? That was one of the key points that today's conference on great polluters debated on.
Traditionally, fossil fuel companies are invited to participate in climate and energy talks being viewed as central figures in the process of climate change.
"75% of the meetings of the EU comissions with energy companies were with fossil fuel companies," said Campaign Coordinator Olivier Hoedeman from the Corporate Europe Observatory earlier today at the conference.
They're not only some of the biggest economic entities embroiled in it, but also from scientific point of view. Boasting some of the most advanced understanding of the substances they work with, their research teams have been called upon time and time again to come up with solutions to address the issue, trusting them to have the interest of humanity as a whole at heart, and not to company profits. Unsurprisingly, that was a loosing bet.
"That's the opposite of what should happen," he added.
A strong parallel was drawn between Big Oil today and Big Tobacco in its glory days by Corporate Accountability International's Associate Research Director Tamar Lawrence-Samuel. She warned that just as the case was then, until fossil fuel companies aren't kicked out of the talks, a real consensus can't be reached and an efficient solution to climate change won't be agreed upon. Fossil fuel companies will continue (very efficiently) to delay, weaken and even block progress in these talks for one very simple reason, she says: they make a huge amount of money, a paradigm shift away from fossil would stop them from making said money, and they're willing to spend -- gaining them a lot of pull in the political world.
"Senators who voted against an amendment that expressed the view that human activities were significantly contributing to climate change received on average 7.1 more money from Oil and Gas industry than those voting yes on that amendment," she added.
We've recently covered how climate denial groups' funding can be traced back to Big Oil, ExxonMobile and Kock in particular, and I agree with Tamar. There's no way anyone would agree to policy that directly undermines their income.There's an old saying, warning one "not to cut the branch from under your feet," and those on fossil fuel payrolls know fully well who their branch is.
"So, one of the reasons why we can't agree on a fair and just climate change is that there are forces fighting against this goal, and corporations and fossil fuel companies in particular play a key role," Tamar concluded.
Asad Rehman, representing Friends of the Earth also advocated for removal of fossil fuel companies from the negotiation table, and expresses his concers even regarding the current talks:
"You see Engie and BNP sponsoring this COP, and they are responsible for many of today's emissions!" he said.
"Putting corporates in the driving seat for climate negotiations is like putting Dracula in a blood bank," concluded Asad.
That's a good line, but don't let his humor fool you -- fossil fuel companies will do their damned best to keep their product in demand. And hey, that's understandable, they're companies after all, and profit is the only god that companies bow to.
But we have to wake up, and see this for what it is -- an irreconcilable conflict of interests. Take dirty energy corporates out of the talks, find a workable solution, and implement is as fast as we possibly can or start looking for deals on boats.