How Big Polluters are Stopping Progress on Climate Change

From foodtank.com, by John Stewart
How Big Polluters are Stopping Progress on Climate Change

Each year, the consequences of climate change become more apparent -- and dire. In 2014, a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sparked a media frenzy when it detailed grim facts and issued stark warnings, like “climate change is projected to undermine food security.” Then, in May, a studypublished in the journal Science found that 1 in 6 animal and plant species are in danger of being wiped out by climate change.

With so much at stake, our actions to address climate change must be bold, they must be global, and they must happen now. If we are to move forward, we must address the single greatest threat to progress: the fossil fuel industry. For more than two decades, the world’s biggest polluters have fought intensely against regulation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- and protect our planet -- namely because it would cut into their profits. In order to address climate change in the face of such determined opposition, we must support grassroots movements that push for audacious policymaking.

You might be surprised to know that right this moment, negotiations are happening in Bonn, Germany that will set the stage for how the global community addresses climate change later this year in Paris.

Time and again, the fossil fuel industry has undermined the U.N. climate treaty, known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The industry knows this treaty could bring the global community together to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which could then spark a cascade of strong national policies to protect our planet, its most vulnerable populations, and its abundance of nutritious food. 

The issue – as climate leader Bill McKibben has noted – is that with 20 years of climate negotiations behind us, “We're making no progress as a planet on slowing climate change.” But this week, we can jump-start the conversation and overcome one of the biggest obstacles to bold policymaking: interference by the fossil fuel industry.

Why the industry is a problem

One of the earliest ways the industry sought to undermine action on climate was by casting doubt on the science. The world’s biggest polluters (and the think tanks they fund) promoted the questionable findings of scientists like Fred Singer and Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, who both undermined authoritative climate science – and continue to do so.

When climate policy seemed to be moving forward in 2000, the oil and gas industry fought tooth-and-nail to stop it by spending millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government to reject the Kyoto Protocol (part of the UNFCCC). The industry succeeded, scuttling a climate change measure that would have forced the U.S. to reduce its fossil fuel consumption, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

To this day, one of the most blatant ways these corporations influence the climate talks is by financing them. Poland’s dirtiest power corporation underwrote the 2013 conference in Warsaw. And this year corporations involved in fracking and coal are sponsoring the talks in Paris.

A precedent for stopping industry interference

Big polluters are pulling out all the stops to undermine progress, but the international community has kicked abusive industries out of policymaking before, and it can do it again. Ten years ago, Corporate Accountability International partnered with allies to ensure the tobacco industry wasn’t allowed to be part of the global tobacco treaty negotiations. As a result, tobacco control laws around the world are dramatically stronger and more effective. We’ll save 200 million lives by 2050 when these treaty measures are fully implemented.

Using this precedent, people around the world are coming together to remove the fossil fuel industry from climate policy. As part of this campaign, Corporate Accountability International and over 15 other organizations are organizing people to sign a petition that will be delivered to delegates at the talks in Bonn and Paris. Already, more than 200,000 people have demanded countries kick big polluters out of the negotiations.

We can achieve dramatic improvements in national and local climate policy – but first, we need the industry out of international talks. Groups like Corporate Accountability International are committed to turning this vision of unobstructed, meaningful policymaking into a sustained reality. If we are to ensure that the people, the environment, and the safe, healthy food we value so dearly win out over profits, we must take the industry out of the game.