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'Filthy' Corporate Sponsors Bankrolling COP21 Exposed in New Report
With less than one week before the Paris climate talks (COP21), Corporate Accountability International (CAI) released a report exposing the “filthy” track record of some of the corporations sponsoring the talks.
The report, Fueling the Fire: The corporate sponsors bankrolling COP21, uncovers “the green veil of four of the meeting’s dirtiest sponsors,” including fossil fuel conglomerates Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Suez Environment, BNP Paribas and French utility Électricité de France (EDF).
The organization argues that there is an inherent conflict of interest between the stated aims of the UN climate process and many of COP21’s corporate sponsors given their roles as global carbon polluters.
Together, these four corporate sponsors represent direct ownership of and/or investments in more than 46 coal-fired power plants, exploration of tar sands in Canada, fracking in the UK and India and more than 200 megatons of CO2-equivalent emissions.
CAI argues that “by detailing the corporations’ abuses to the environment and aggressive lobbying to undermine environmental policy, the report lays bare the conflict of interest inherent in allowing such sponsorship to exist.”
"Inviting some of the world’s biggest polluters to pay for the COP is akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house. We must eliminate this conflict of interest before the COP become corporate trade shows for false market-based solutions," CAI Executive Director Patti Lynn said.
The report details how the four sponsors have long track records of “policy interference that contradict the green public relations” they advance. Whilst energy giant EDF claims to be “committed to a decarbonized world,” it is an active member—alongside ExxonMobil and Shell—of the European business lobby group, BusinessEurope.
Indeed, BusinessEurope has a long history of being opposed to climate action. In 2010, it came second in the EU’s Worst Lobby Awards. It was nominated “for its aggressive lobbying to block effective climate action in the EU while claiming to support action to protect the climate.” On behalf of its members, BusinessEurope openly opposes the “market deployment of energy produced from renewable sources.”
The report also outlines the greenwashing covering pollution. CAI reveals that Engie “is a polluter with few rivals,” responsible for more than 131 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the equivalent to pollution emitted from driving around the globe 12 million times.
“Despite recent announcements to stop new coal projects, Engie still owns 30 dirty coal power plants worldwide,” argues Célia Gautier, policy advisor at Climate Action Network France. “The French state is directly responsible for Engie’s greenwashing activities as it owns 33 percent of its shares and accepted to put them in their list of COP21 sponsors.”
BNP Paribas is one of the largest coal financiers in France. Between 2005 and 2014 the corporation provided half of the total financial support (€15.5 billion) from French banks to the coal industry.
The momentum is growing to have large polluting companies excluded from the talks. In May, more than 60 organizations launched a global campaign to kick big polluters out of climate policy.
Using the UN legal precedent, Article 5.3 of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, they say the same should happen with Big Oil and COP21.
So far more than 400,000 people have joined the call. You can sign up here.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
- Is California heading for another drought? - Los Angeles Times ›
- CA wildfire season: Will rain, snow weather forecast end risk? | The ... ›
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- California weather stays dry as rain and snow come up short | The ... ›
- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?