Senior Democratic senators have written to the United Nations chief, warning that the level of corporate lobbying is threatening public confidence in global negotiations on climate action – and new controls are needed.
Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, Maryland’s Ben Cardin and Massachusetts’ Ed Markey have sent a letter to António Gutierres, the UN Secretary-General, urging the UN to require sponsors and attendees of future climate conferences to provide “audited statements on climate policy Influencing companies”. .
The highly unusual move comes a month after it was revealed that more than 630 fossil fuel lobbyists attended the 27th annual Cop27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Scores of other delegates from the food, mining and plastics sectors – as well as financial institutions that support these polluting industries – also attended, despite years of warnings from activists about the growing influence of bad actors.
“Alongside the question of harboring a cop in a country where human rights and environmentalists are routinely imprisoned, it did not escape our attention that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended this cop. We urge you to take action to ensure the cop himself can avoid direct interference from corporate stakeholders with a vested financial interest in undermining climate protection,” the senators wrote.
“We would recommend that in order to be a sponsor, have a pavilion, be a moderator, or participate in a police force, a company must disclose an audited statement of political influencing of corporate climate. Such a requirement would bring much-needed transparency to climate-related policy lobbying by corporations around the world and help restore public confidence that the cop process is not being used as a greenwashing opportunity by corporations,” they added.
Attended by nearly 200 countries and tens of thousands of delegates, the annual biweekly climate summit is the premier global arena for securing international cooperation to cut emissions and tackle the climate crisis.
But despite three decades of talks, meaningful action was slow to materialize. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the planet is warming with devastating consequences, including worsening droughts, floods and heat waves, as well as rising sea levels and melting glaciers – hitting communities and countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis hardest.
Environmental and human rights NGOs have urged the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which hosts the cop summits, to address the conflicts of interest between sponsors and participants, but this has met with opposition from business groups.
Rachel Rose Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Kick Big Polluters Out campaign, which represents more than 450 groups, welcomed the senators’ intervention.
“For years, governments representing 70% of the world’s population, along with hundreds of civil society organizations, have sought to adopt measures to protect climate policies from being abused by big polluters. Consequently, the US government has been the biggest blocker, so it’s refreshing to see demand from the United States… for another cop overrun by polluters, let’s hope the UNFCCC finally and decisively tightened the corporate stranglehold end climate policy,” Jackson said.
Coca-Cola, a key Cop27 sponsor, has been identified as the world’s top plastic polluter for five consecutive years, as have PepsiCo and Nestlé, who have also both sent delegates to Egypt.