‘Polluticians’ Occupying the Climate

How Eskom and others are preventing decisive action on climate change

Feature story - November 22, 2011
Our latest report, entitled ‘Who’s Holding us Back?’, reveals how a handful of major corporations are adversely influencing governments, and polluting the political process on climate legislation.

Confronting Kusile

Greenpeace climbers drop banners from a crane inside the construction site for Kusile coal-fired power station. The action was to highlight Eskom's major coal addiction, and the huge costs that addiction inflicts on South Africa.


According to the report, Eskom, BASF, BHP Billiton, Shell, and Koch Industries are among those obstructing decisive action on climate change.

“Our governments must work with and learn from the business sector, but we will not avoid irreversible climate change impacts unless they listen to and act on the behalf of their citizens,” said Melita Steele, climate campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

“During the UN climate talks in Durban, we are urging governments to listen to the people, not the polluting corporations.” 

Although public opinion places high emphasis on the need for taking action on climate change, a number of corporations are debilitating the political will. The report demonstrates how this happens, and how climate action is being ousted from the political agenda.

It also looks at why a lack of action in several important countries, like South Africa, effectively prevents a global climate agreement.

"In this report, we document the tricks of the trade that polluting corporations like Eskom use to pull the strings of our politicians and mislead the public. We expose the web of influence that sees these companies play not only our leaders, but entire countries against each other in order to hold back action on the climate,” Steele added.

“In 2010, Eskom contributed nearly half of South Africa’s annual greenhouse gas emissions -- and yet the utility is a member of the South African negotiating team, and continues to fuel the country’s coal addiction by building Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations.”

“Enough is enough.”

Accompanying the release of the report, Greenpeace has launched a controversial direct communication campaign profiling President Zuma, President Obama, Prime Minister Harper (Canada), and Manuel Barroso (head of the European Commission).

Billboards show the faces of these leaders composed of corporate logos, challenging the politicians in Durban to “Listen to the people, not the polluters”.(3)

Greenpeace is calling on governments in Durban to listen to the people, not the polluting corporations, and:

  • Ensure a peak in global emissions by 2015
  • Emission reductions: Close the gap between politics and science
  • Ensure that the Kyoto Protocol continues and provide a mandate for a comprehensive legally binding instrument
  • Deliver the necessary climate finance
  • Set up a framework for protecting forests in developing countries
  • Address the needs of the most vulnerable countries and communities
  • Ensure global cooperation on technology and energy finance
  • Ensure international transparency in assessing and monitoring country commitments and actions
  • Ensure transparency, democracy and full participation in the UNFCCC process

Download the full report: Click Here



A global poll in 2009 showed that 73% of people placed a high priority on climate change and a recent poll confirmed that global concern about climate change has risen slightly since the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, despite the ongoing global financial and economic crisis.

According to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll released in October 2011 the concern about climate change among Europeans has grown since 2009 and almost eight in ten respondents agree that tackling climate change can boost the economy and create jobs.