Today is the last day of COP23. Though not on the formal agenda, conflicts of interests has again resurfaced as a hot topic in the climate negotiations.
The COP23 Presidency released their report on the Open Dialogue between Parties and non-Party stakeholders last night. The report is the official document that is supposed to summarise the discussions that happened last week, 8 November. The dialogue focused around two issues, one of them being how to enhance non-Party stakeholder participation, and mapping what kind of practices that already exist as a precedence within other UN bodies.
During this dialogue I had the honour and privilege to speak on behalf of a group of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations called Climate Justice Network. I took this opportunity to address the need for creating a firewall between public policy and vested or conflicting interests working against the purpose of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. You can read my statement here.
One of the main topics that was raised by both countries and civil society was the need to enhance participation while at the same time protecting the negotiations against conflicts of interests that arise by allowing polluting corporations with a vested interests a formal role in policymaking. Specifically, representatives from Environmental-, Women and Gender-, and Youth-constituencies explicitly raised this concern, and reiterated the good practice in other UN bodies that establish a precedent (and need) to address this.
Our concerns were reiterated during a press conference on the 9 November, where civil society representatives especially stressed the importance of seeing this issue reflected in the upcoming report.
Despite the fact that the issue of vested and conflicting issues was raised almost more than any other specific issue, there is not a single mention of conflicts of interest, or the need to address it, in the final report.
Why is this? What motivated the Fijian presidency to disregard the majority of interventions in the dialogue? Even the Business and Industry NGOs have it covered on their websites. Why can’t the presidency do the same? I hope to see a revision of the Presidency report within short, to do the interventions justice and to keep facilitating this important discussion.
Background: As negotiations has been going on for 23 years without us managing to curb global emissions, one can wonder what is causing this delay. In the European Parliament, as in many other public institutions, we need to work on safeguarding the public interest from vested and financial interests of specific groups. In climate politics this especially means the fossil fuel industry with coal, oil and gas companies working actively to delay and block ambitious policy proposals.
At the UN climate negotiations business interests are represented mainly through observer participation but are often also part of national delegations.
Across climate policy areas- including finance, agriculture, technology, and others- the evidence clearly shows that observer organisations representing the interests of polluting corporations are displacing the real solutions to the climate crisis and instead pushing dangerous distractions that will continue to increase emissions, withhold direct public finance, and serve profit interests, not the needs of the people. This is why European Parliament recently voted through a resolution that calls on the UNFCCC to address these vested interests by putting in place policies or procedures that protect against those who clearly seek undermine the objectives of the agreement and convention.
There are many strong and convincing precedents from around the world that establish that defining and regulating conflicts of interest is the norm, not the exception, to effective policymaking. In such important negotiations as within the UNFCCC, this should be implemented immediately. The planet cannot wait, and neither can we.