Climate summits under the auspices of corporations

This week another annual climate summit begins. The media, as usual, do not show much interest in this issue; the issue that is already changing the quality of life of millions. Sometimes, it is incomprehensible why the leaders of nations do not respond to such am important topic. Do they not care about the well-being of their nations and citizens? Or do private and profit interests overshadow their sense of responsibility? In the following lines, we will explore how economic interests influence the efficiency of the UNFCCC summit. 

Climate change issues present progressive environmental and security threat. On the one side we have numerous scientific proofs and knowledge to deal with the situation, but on the other side, we are witnessing reluctance and frivolousness in real political action. Climate changes influence the functional model of society, its economic activities and require considerable financial costs. Therefore, economic subjects and stakeholders are strongly interested and involved in the process of the climate summits. Unfortunately, the impact of corporations’ and lobbying groups’ engagement hampers any efficient outcome.

The relation between UN/UNFCCC and corporations has longer tradition. Neoliberalization processes have contributed to the environment of needful mutual cooperation, in which costly projects could be facilitated. However, this cooperation does not always enable the achievement in development and welfare targets, but create profitable and market-driven mechanisms that are favourable altogether just for the pockets of investors.

The Polaris Institute, a Canadian think-tank, provides great analysis of influence of corporations and businesses on UNFCCC negotiations. According to the paper, the biggest lobbying group consists of 200 leading corporations with annual yield of $7 trillion1 and which distribute their products and services into more than half of global population. In 1997, the foundation focused on assistance to UN in resolutions of global problems was established by Ted Turner, the famous media magnate. A year after, there was another voluntary program created by multinational corporations for responsible performance; Global Compact. Despite the fact that these and many other similar formations have as aim the implementation of sustainable and socially responsible policies, their activities are not really about sustainability and social justice. It is because the gains are their main aim and they are just looking for profitable solutions within business initiatives, e.g. Clean Development Mechanism, transfer of technologies, adaptation framework, Green Climate Fund or technological mechanisms.

The paper states that corporations and business communities are engaged through five channels of influence: direct lobbying, industrial associations, industrial events, partnerships between UN and business sphere and corporate financing and investments. To have a better apprehension, direct lobbying influences directly the positions of participated leaders at the climate conferences. The oil and gas industries spent $175 million1 in 2009 just in USA to influence the proposals in parliament about climate change that subsequently haven´t been passed by Senate. As well the lobbying power of oil, gas, chemical, or car industry, e.g. General Electric or Alcoa, was responsible for refusal of signing the Kyoto protocol by USA. Or, for instance, industrial association; they influence the negotiations through national lobbying or lobbying on delegations by groups of observers of ECOSOC, or by own representatives in a specific national delegation. These associations are recognized as BINGO- business and industrial non-governmental organizations. Since beginning, many more than 4000 lobbyists have participated directly at COP delegations just from the associations consisting of ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, Volkswagen, Duke Energy, BP, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Coca Cola, and the list could continue further pretty long.

The cooperation among various actors is essential to create the functioning and sustainable model of society. Cooperation means also democracy and tolerance, but can be such cooperation really tolerant? Under such conditions, the climate change conferences under the auspicious of UNFCCC will never sufficiently resolve this environmental threat and in such a way do not provide optimal space for political but unbiased discussion. Sometimes, I am wondering why is it so that people with competences and means do not have strong willingness and moral intelligence, and those without means and competences are able to risk their lives for common goods, justice, more advanced and decent life. The upcoming summit is taking place in Doha, Qatar, a country that represents the highest rank in carbon dioxide emissions per capita. It seems symbolical, probably the same as the expected outcome.


Polar Institute. Available at:<>.