November 21, 2013

Civil Society Pushes to Block Fossil Fuel Lobbying from UN Climate Talks

WARSAW, Poland — Over 70 organisations from across global civil society released a letter [1] this morning calling on the United Nations and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to implement new rules to safeguard the global climate talks from the undue influence of the fossil fuel industry.

“Is it any wonder that rich, industrialised countries are reneging on their commitments to lead on emissions cuts and provide new climate finance when whispering in their ear is an industry that profits from more emissions?” said Pascoe Sabido, a Researcher and Campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory. “If we want the climate talks to deliver anything like what science and equity demand, we need a firewall between dirty industry and climate policy makers.”

In the letter, the organisations share their concerns about the corporate sponsorship [2] of COP19, the Polish government’s decision to co-sponsor a coal industry summit during the talks, and UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres’ decision to speak at the summit.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need for rules to govern the relationship between the UNFCCC and the fossil fuel industry, including obligations for COP Presidents,” the letter continues. “Rules that would ensure the current damaging situation is avoided, by ending the undue access and influence of polluting businesses and industries, recognising that their direct commercial interests are fundamentally and irreconcilably in conflict with the urgent need for an equitable and ambitious climate policy.”


There is a strong precedent for treaty organisations like the UNFCCC to pass rules and guidelines to regulate the undue influence of corporations. For example, the World Health Organisation’s global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which entered into force in 2005, enshrines in international law the principle that the tobacco industry has no role in public health policy-making, due to the “fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests” and states that “Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.” The implementing guidelines to 5.3 elaborate that this involves limiting interactions between the industry that profits from harm and those tasked with minimising and ultimately stopping the harm it causes.

“The planetary emergency, made crystal clear by the recent disaster in the Philippines, demands a complete transformation of the energy system. Yet the Polish Presidency and the UNFCCC have put dirty energy companies in the driving seat.” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth International. “Tobacco lobbyists are kept away from the World Health Organisation, so why should fossil fuel lobbyists be allowed near the UNFCCC?”

With the next global climate deal expected to be signed in Paris in 2015, civil society groups will be looking to the UNFCCC to introduce safeguards and rules that are commensurate with the challenge of protecting the climate. Meanwhile, many of the co-signed organisations will be continuing their campaigns to combat the political power of the fossil fuel industry, from the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, to fights over lobbying disclosure, to campaigns against coal projects and fossil fuels exploration around the world.

“Dirty corporations are at the climate talks for one reason only: to convince governments to support their failed, false solutions; solutions which not only wreck our climate but make the polluters a lot of money in the process.” Said Maxime Combes of ATTAC France. “Communities here are fighting fracking and nuclear power and if nothing changes by the time negotiations arrive in Paris, their industry representatives will be inside the UNFCCC trying to pass themselves off as a climate solution. It’s simply unacceptable.”

Notes for editors:

[1] For the full text of the letter, see

[2] For more information on the role of corporations at COP19, see