Australia shamelessly backs #fossilfuel influence at Bonn climate negotiations reports @takvera

Press briefing by Corporate Accountability International at Bonn Climate Change Conference ­- May 2017

In a workshop on how non-party actors can boost climate action at the UN #SB46 climate negotiations in Bonn, Australia shamelessly supported business and fossil fuel interests in the discussion on development of conflict of interest policy for UN climate negotiations.

The negotiations in Bonn started well, with Australia noting the need for sustained and focused work at the Bonn climate negotiations session this week.

On the first day of the talks transparency & accountability were prominent in many discussions.

Then it got worse for Australian diplomats, when conflict of interest started being discussed in a workshop. Norway, then Australia were in the fray supporting business and big polluter participation at UN climate negotiations.

The next morning a Corporate Accountability International press briefing on conflict of interest in the UNFCCC negotiations was held.

Australia was particularly highlighted for defending business interests and working against conflict of interest policy. The Conflict of interest discussion came up at the SB46 UNFCCC negotiations in an In-session workshop on opportunities to further enhance the effective engagement of non-Party stakeholders with a view to strengthening the implementation of the provisions of decision 1/CP.21.

Corporate Accountability International spokesperson International Policy Director Tamar Lawrence-Samuel had this to say in the press briefing:

“One of the most notable interventions came from Australia, who laid across the tracks, so to speak, to defend Exxon-Mobil by insisting that the very solutions to climate change would come from the very industries driving the climate crisis, making them the key to the solutions for climate change.

“It was very clear from the workshop who was in favour of a conflict of interest policy and who wasn’t. The interests represented in the room that were in opposition to a conflict of interest policy were clearly from the business side. I can’t stress enough the importance of this workshop itself and this development is. It really places the fundamental problem of industry access to climate policy making and implementation squarely on the table requiring that parties contend with the issue and have to formulate a position.

“Yesterday’s significant discussions came on the back of lengthy discussions last May in Bonn where the Eu, US and Australia discussed the issue for the better part of the negotiations in the agenda item that was relevant to this topic but then refused to adopt conclusions that reflected the discussions that had happened in that contact group.

“After yesterday’s workshop I think there is no longer any way for parties to ignore this issue or to avoid this issue. A robust and evidence based policy will be really central to the creation of the Paris rulebook, to the implementation of party existing obligations under the convention as well.

“So for more than 20 years we have been unable to do what is truly needed to address the enormity of the climate crisis in a way that just transforms our energy systems and that is primarily because of the interests of the fossil fuel industry and others whose business profits depend on inaction.

“The next couple of weeks here in Bonn will be really critical in defining the future of this question at the UNFCCC.

Corporate Accountability International released a report on 1st May 2017 titled: INSIDE JOB:Big Polluters’ lobbyists on the inside at the UNFCCC. The report singles out from Australia the Business Council of Australia (BCA). It describes the Business Council and it’s climate policy advocacy as:

“The Business Council of Australia (BCA) member base is made up of 127 CEOs from Australia’s biggest and wealthiest companies. The council serves as a “way in” to the world of policy debate for its members. It is funded by big time polluters that also play a lead role in deciding its priorities, and its president is an executive of a major polluter. The BCA has given almost no nod to the severity of climate change, its causes, or the dire need for mitigation, and it supports the Paris Agreement only insofar as it does not burden businesses. Consistent with this stance, it has opposed climate policies and dismissed key targets of the Paris Agreement as far-fetched.”

The report outlines briefly the BCA’s track record on climate policy:

  • BCA president Grant King is on Big Oil’s payroll (BHP), formerly at Origin Energy and AGL Energy.
  • Opposed Australia’s carbonpricing scheme.
  • Has denounced curbing global warming as “unrealistic.”, opposing further reductions in Australia’s emissions targets.
  • BCA members are at the center of controversial Great Australian Bight project. These include oil giants BP and Chevron, who have controversial plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.
  • BCA pays scant regard for climate risks or liabilities. BCA’s 2014-2015 “A Year in Review” hardly mentioned climate change or mitigating risk to the environment. Its 2015-2016 annual review also fails to commit to climate change as a priority. Priority is given to increasing gas exploitation, including unconvential gas through fracking.

The campaign to kick big polluters out of the UN climate negotiations has been going for some years. I reported on Corporate Greenwashing and conflict of interest at UN climate conference #COP21 in 2015, as well as protests against corporate polluters at COP22 in Marrakech in 2016.

The movement to adopt conflict of interest policy as part of the UN climate negotiations is gaining support with governments representing nearly 70 percent of the world’s population in May 2016 pushing for the UNFCCC to address conflicts of interest. Last year the proposal was met with strident opposition from major developed nations such as the United States, European Union, and Australia.

How nations excluded tobacco companies in the World Health Organisation global tobacco treaty is seen as an important precedent. According to Corporate Accountability International, this treaty’s key provision, Article 5.3, and the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 protect against classic industry interference tactics by barring partnerships, financial relationships, revolving door cases, and industry participation in the policy making process.

The World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan have called this 2003 tobacco treaty the single largest catalyst of progress in a treaty that could save 200 million lives by 2050 when fully implemented.

Margaret Chan said: “giving any tobacco company a place at the negotiating table is akin to appointing a committee of foxes to take care of your chickens.”

The same analogy applies to businesses that are fossil fuel polluters attending climate negotiations. It’s about time these business interests were excluded as having a substantial conflict of interest, and Australia stopped being their diplomatic proxy.

Read all the related social media for this article in the storify: Australia shamelessly backs fossil fuel influence at #SB46 UN climate negotiations in Bonn

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  1. Mike Flanagan says

    Excelent journalism JE.
    It is a pity the main stream media didn’t devote some ink to this scurrilous political position of the Turnbull government.
    Considering that the influential players forcing the Turnbull hand on this can be found in our Bankster’s boardrooms, it only adds more urgency for a Royal Commission in to our bankster sector.