By Liam McLoughlin 7/12/2015
There are no better friends of the environment than oil, coal and gas companies. It’s great news then that a whole bunch of these companies are sponsoring or supporting the Paris climate conference, all agitating for an historic and visionary climate agreement.
It’s a breath of fresh air that so many companies responsible for so much carbon pollution are so eager to wipe out their own business models with massive emissions reductions targets. Some CEOs will tell you their job is to maximise profits for their shareholders and damn the climate and humanity to hell.
Not these guys (and it is mostly guys), they love the climate. So without further ado, here is a list of sponsors and supporters of COP21. Congratulations to these environmental heroes and best of luck for your campaigning in Paris.
20% of the cost of the Paris Summit is paid for by these corporations:
Energy giant Engie, responsible for coal-fired emissions equal to nearly half of France’s annual carbon footprint. It also happens to co-own Victoria’s notorious Hazelwood Coal Mine.
EDF, a French electric utility company partnering with Shell and Exxon Mobil in European business lobby group, BusinessEurope. The lobby group came second in 2010 in the EU’s Worst Lobby Awards, nominated for “aggressive lobbying to block effective climate action while claiming to support action to protect the climate”.
BNP Paribas, one of the top 10 global coal lending banks between 2005 and 2013.
Along with Suez Environment, these four companies own all or part of 46 coal-fired power stations around the world. They have investments in fracking in Britain, the oil sands of Canada, as well as $30 billion invested in the French coal industry. Combined they produce over 200 megatons of CO2 equivalent annually. That’s a significantly higher output than that of most countries in the world and as measured by Mad as Hell’s Shaun Micallef, it’s an inconceivable number of Olympic swimming pools.
The sponsors also include Air France, which has opposed emissions reductions in aviation but is renowned for their ‘solar powered planes’, along with Renault-Nissan, which hopes the 8 million cars they sell each year have nothing to do with climate change.
The Executive Director of Corporate Accountability International, Patti Lynn, has said the fact that these firms are sponsoring the conference is “akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house”. Presumably because the fox and hen are such good friends.
There’s another group of climate action cheerleaders called the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. While they’re not directly sponsoring the summit because it’s not such a great look for the UN, they are providing tremendous moral support for world leaders to drastically cut those pesky emissions. This group of 10 CEOs of global energy companies, including BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil, have signed a joint declaration of support for the COP21 process, which seems a bit like Satan wishing you the best of luck in your local cricket match. You’d feel pretty nervous as you went out to bat.
As you read this, they’re joining the likes of Monsanto, Volkswagen, Dow Chemical, Nestle, McDonalds and Walmart to badger politicians for a fantastic outcome for the climate.
While the French government called this situation “imperfect” back in May, even ISIS have called it “morally bankrupt”.
But let’s not give all the credit to these climate heroes. They couldn’t be so supportive of environmental events like the Paris Summit without their mates in government.
An International Monetary Fund report this year found the world’s governments spend US $5.3 trillion a year on fossil fuel subsidies. This is $10 million a minute and is more than the total of global health spending. The IMF called the figure “extremely robust” and most of this amount is due to polluters not paying the welfare, health environmental and economic costs of burning oil, coal and gas. UK economist Nicholas Stern says even this number is a serious underestimate.
Currently, Australia spends $10 billion a year in handouts to big polluters, including cash, subsidies, infrastructure and tax breaks. You can see why Pacific Islanders might think it a little rich that Malcom acts like a big hero for offering $1 million to help Pacific nations cope with the effects of climate change, but backs out of a pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies due to a revolt by miners/coalition MPs. It’s as if the government is saying “Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Kiribati, please enjoy this small change to buy a few fast melting ice creams while we spend billions ensuring your countries go under water in coming decades”. You might also see why poor people in developing nations might be a little angry that Turnbull, Australia’s twisted answer to Robin Hood, has decided to rip $1 billion out of our aid budget to reduce emissions, all the while paying polluters to make emissions.
At this point you might feel a little worried about the prospects for the politicians and corporations in Paris to do what is essential for a liveable planet.
The good news is that when the Paris agreement inevitably fails to do what it must, the climate movement will not patiently wait for the next opportunity for our leaders to fail us.
See you in the streets.