For years, delegates from all over the world have met to discuss ways to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate. Our global capitalist system has enabled businesses to extract ever-greater resources and generate relentless pollution. Now, many of the same companies that are guilty of destroying our climate are being lauded as “partners” and “stakeholders” in the climate talks. Corporate sponsors would foot a fifth of the bill for the COP21 December gathering. Aside from the COP21, there are two major business-centered side events coinciding with the conference.
The Sustainable Innovation Forum, is being organized in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Program to help companies to “generate profitable business opportunities and partnerships, provide top-level access to emerging markets and reinforce their commitment to, and their position as leaders within, the global sustainability industry.” The event bills itself as “the largest business event on the sidelines of the COP.” Last year’s event in Lima, Peru, boasted hundreds of attendees from industry and governments and was sponsored by investment banks, agribusinesses and the International Chamber of Commerce, among others.
The second corporate event during COP21 is Solutions 21, whose positive-sounding online literature sports slick messaging—“Live the Climate Experience,” its website announces. The gathering will include a free exhibition of technology as well as “concerts, films, parties and incredible events.” The business-centered coalition declares: “Solutions COP21 offers a new perspective and a unique experience. Because climate solutions do exist, because the subject is a fascinating one.” Corporate Europe Observatory detailed in a new report how Solutions 21 is simply “a chance for big business to promote its pie-in-the-sky market-based techno-fixes to climate change.” The organization also exposed how the various levels of corporate sponsorship of the event offer “privileged access to climate policy-makers.” The group put it bluntly: “The more money you have, the better you can buy your way to being seen and heard by our political leaders, and the more effectively you’ll be associated with solutions to the climate crisis.” Meanwhile, “civil society struggles to be heard even when hundreds of thousands take to the streets, highlighting the undemocratic nature of this kind of luxurious corporate lobbying show.”
A new campaign called “Kick Big Polluters Out,” calls on world leaders to ban corporate interests from the climate negotiations. The campaign, organized by Corporate Accountability International, explains:
“For two decades, the world’s biggest polluters delayed, weakened, and blocked climate policy at every level. From the World Coal Association hosting a summit on “clean coal” around the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to Shell aggressively lobbying in the European Union for weak renewable energy goals while promoting gas, these big polluters are peddling false solutions to protect their profits while driving the climate crisis closer to the brink.” Influence Map, a United Kingdom-based organization that tracks corporate influence on climate policies reported last month how fossil fuel companies specifically damage climate agreements. According to their report, “The energy majors’ slogan leading up to Paris 2015 is to call for a price on carbon. Behind the scenes, however, they are systematically obstructing the very laws that would enable a meaningful price.”
It is clear that the goals of the corporations do not coincide with ours. Corporate entities exist to make profits—the larger the profits, the better. They do not exist to lead us to a more just, more equitable and safer world—unless that hypothetical world just happened to be the most financially lucrative one. Capitalism is actually incompatible with saving our species from the ills of climate change. Corporations cannot and will not lead us to climate-friendly policies.