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How mega sponsors undermine the international push to slow catastrophic global warming.

Species extinction? – Assets!

Heat, drought, floods? – Share profits!

The lives of our children and grandchildren? – Locational advantages!

Walking through the halls of the so-called green and blue zones at the climate summit in Glasgow, one could easily get the impression of having landed at an international agricultural fair or an exhibition of the oil industry. Colorful signs and expensively set up information stands of multinational energy and fossil fuel corporations advertise their products, always embedded in the climate policy buzzwords that everyone wants to hear. 

In Glasgow, delegates will for the first time consider how to reform financial markets to ensure that financial flows are “consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.” The proposals are weak. Not surprising, since they were developed under the influence of large financial companies that are heavily involved in the fossil fuel industry. There are more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country.

The sponsors of the UN climate talks do nothing else but lobbying for false solutions that appear to be climate action but actually preserve the status quo. To stay in the game after the climate conference, corporations only have to make a “net zero by 2050” commitment, meaning that they do not have to achieve carbon neutrality for another three decades. The vagueness of this commitment leaves many loopholes open for corporations. So even if a financial company continues to invest heavily in fossil fuels, it can still be actively involved in the UN’s private finance and climate change agenda. Thus, COP26 is the largest financial greenwash event in history.

Big corporations are pushing forward the false narrative that current pollution was no real problem as long as it’s matched with – you know – a splash of carbon-neutral offsetting creativity here, and a tad of eco-friendly taxation there.

Their influence is one of the biggest reasons why 25 years of UN climate talks have not led to real cuts in global emissions. The biggest problem, however, are politicians who do not act in the name of science and in the interest of the majority of citizens, but fulfil the wishes of the fossil fuel industry. 

The whole event looks like a children’s birthday party, where everyone holds hands and tells fairy tales, but tomorrow morning the cleaner from the global south can clean everything up again.

Given that national governments and big corporations are behind the swarm lobbying, it is not surprising that officials continue to do the utmost to keep their most lucrative activities protected from criticism or decarbonization action. Having the climate summit sponsored by energy companies and the oil industry is like relying on the advice of the arms industry in peace negotiations.

We need a firewall between the fossil fuel industry and the negotiators. There has to be a ban on future sponsorship deals between the United Nations Climate Change Conference and companies.

Through our talks in Glasgow with young people from all around the world, with activists, civil society and parliamentarians from other countries, especially from the global South, we remain steadfast, hopeful and defiant that a progressive majority is forming that will stop the far right, business interests and neoliberal forces from destroying our planet.

The key test for world leaders is whether they agree on quickly phasing out of fossil fuels. If they continue to put the profits of a few polluting industries before science and our planet’s future, it is time to rise up.

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