It is that time of the year again. For the last two decades, every year in November or December. the world gets together to try to carve out a deal to prevent catastrophic climate change. After so many years, one might be tempted to think that the whole process holds little surprises. But fear not, because this year the Polish government has decided to spice things up to make sure things are a little different this time around.
Poland’s Premier Tusk decided that it was about time when corporate sponsorship would enter the world of climate negotiations. And he did not invite just any corporations. For the first time ever the negotiations are sponsored by some of the most polluting companies in the world.
So we find ourselves in an absurd situation here. While 30 of our colleagues are being held in prison because they peacefully protested against the madness of drilling for oil in the Arctic, we spend our days at climate negotiations sponsored by companies like BMW, who has done just about everything to stop stricter CO2emissions standards in Europe, to make sure we keep our addiction to oil.
But BMW is far from being alone. The list of sponsors reads like a who’s who of corporate polluters. Among them the French conglomerate Alstrom Power which has built some of Poland’s biggest coal-fired power plants. Another sponsor, ArcelorMittal has also been busy building things. As the world’s leading steel and mining company it has sponsored the construction of the plenary halls at the conference center where the negotiations are taking place. In a way, countries are literally negotiating a new climate agreement in the belly of the beast paid for by the company that has for years lobbied governments to avoid tighter emissions reduction targets in the European Union.
Unfortunately it does not stop there. Another partner in crime is PGE, Poland’s largest energy company and the operator of the infamous Belchatów lignite power plant. It is the very plant that we protested at last weekbecause, not only is lignite one of the dirtiest and most polluting fuels, but Belchatów also holds the sad record of being the single biggest source of carbon emissions in all of Europe. If you want to take a wild guess of who built part of Belchatów, here’s a hint: scroll up a little bit.
And the list goes on. Although the Polish government stopped short of giving these companies a seat at the negotiating table, they invited them – again, for the first time ever – to directly meet with UN leaders at the newly established “Caring for Climate Business Forum”. As if all that wasn’t enough, the government also decided to host one of the world’s biggest coal summits to coincide with the climate negotiations. This morning, our protestat the very heart of the coal industry was joined by civil society organizations from all over the world. At a time when almost 90% of the Polish people have clearly said that they want more energy to come from renewable sources, the Polish government is not only betraying its own people but also the world.
Science clearly tells us that we need to leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we want to have a realistic chance to prevent catastrophic climate change. If we are to get serious about avoiding a climate crisis, we cannot allow the international climate summits to be turned into a big showroom for some of the most polluting companies and industries in the world. Allowing those causing the problem to sponsor the very negotiations that are meant to solve it is more than schizophrenic, it’s utter madness.
Sebastian Bock is a Political Advisor at Greenpeace International. Follow him on Twitter at @sebastianbock