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Partnering With Polluters? The U.N. Climate Summit Criticized for Sponsorships by Fossil Fuel Companies

Meanwhile, the Polish Ministry of Economy has teamed up with the World Coal Association to put on this parallel International Coal & Climate Summit.

AMY GOODMAN: The organizers of the U.N. climate talks here in Warsaw are facing criticism for accepting corporate sponsorships from major car manufacturers, oil companies, steel manufacturers and car firms—coal firms. Companies include BMW and General Motors. Meanwhile, the Polish Ministry of Economy has teamed up with the World Coal Association to put on this parallel International Coal & Climate Summit.

We’re joined now by—we’re joined right now by Pascoe Sabido. Pascoe Sabido is from the Corporate Europe Observatory. He helped write a new  booklet called "The COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying: Climate Crooks and the Polish Government’s Partners in Crime."

Welcome, Pascoe. Talk about who is here. What is unprecedented about this COP 19, the Conference of Parties, the U.N. climate change summit?

PASCOE SABIDO: Yeah, I mean, I think just to say that this—this is perhaps the most corporate climate talks we have ever experienced is not to say that previous ones haven’t had a large corporate influence. But what’s different this time is the level of institutionalization, the degree to which the Polish government and the U.N., the UNCCC, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, have welcomed this with open arms and have actively encouraged it.

So, I mean, the three key ways they’ve done this is there was the pre-negotiations that happened in October here in Warsaw, and the Polish presidency, so the presidents of the climate talks, invited only business. Civil society, so NGOs, journalists, academics, were not allowed to attend. So you had exclusive access to negotiators by business, so a real chance to set the agenda. And then here at the talks, I mean, there’s 13 corporate sponsors, the first time we’ve seen this degree. But just to shed a bit of light, the Polish presidency asked 150 different corporations to sponsor this event, and these were the best, the best of the bunch. But, I mean, as you said, General Motors, who are known for funding climate skeptic think tanks like the Heartland Institute in the U.S.; you have BMW, who are doing equal things in Europe, who are trying to weaken emission standards.

AMY GOODMAN: How is BMW trying to weaken emission standards?

PASCOE SABIDO: It’s been leading on the—on the German government, on Angela Merkel, to delay a vote in the European Parliament that’s supposed to say car emission standards will be improved. And instead it’s had the deal delayed again and again and again, to the degree where actually now it’s being—it’s supposed to be voted on by the Lithuanian presidency, so this is perhaps a bit EU talk, but just to—just to say, the Lithuanian presidency, who’s supposed to be allowing this vote to happen in Europe, is also sponsored by BMW, has given them 180 cars for the presidency. And then it turns out that Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, also received three-quarters of a million euros from BMW’s owning family. So I think BMW have a quite fishy role to play here.

But not only car companies, there’s airlines, like Emirates. We have—I mean, what’s incredible is some of the biggest fossil fuel companies. So we have Poland’s own state fossil fuel companies.PGE, the Polish Energy Group, who are really big in lignite mining, coal mines, are planning to build yet more coal plants—I think there’s 40 that are already in existence, and they have plans to build more—as well as the LOTOS Group, another Polish fossil fuel company dealing with oil, who claim that their practices—so, they drill in the Baltic for oil, the only Polish company to do so—they claim their practices are probably the least nuisance to the environment possible. I’m not quite sure—if they have, they’ve been missing the news and haven’t seen what’s gone on in the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, but oil drilling is not environmentally friendly. It’s not something that we need to tackle climate change. And yet, these organizations are here on the inside. I mean, they have their logos plastered all over this conference center and, as a result, are able to wrap themselves in the colors of the U.N. and claim—wrongly, of course—to be climate champions, which is incredibly damaging.

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