Article published by Glasgow call out polluters on 25/03/2021
Would you trust a big tobacco company at a world health conference? The question is almost ridiculous: of course not. Big tobacco’s nakedly vested interests obviously conflict with global health requirements. And so, sensibly, attempts have been made to exclude big tobacco from World Health Organisation talks.
As things stand, Cop26 in Glasgow will remain a playground for polluters, who can stalk the halls, lobby politicians and spend their not inconsiderable public relations money on presenting themselves as part of the solution.
It is against this state of corporate privilege at Cop26 that we at Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, alongside over 170 groups from across the world, have written an open letter to Cop26 president Alok Sharma, laying out five steps the UK government can take as co-hosts of Cop26 to remove and reduce the presence of big polluters at the talks.
Not unrelatedly, the talks themselves are also experiencing a crisis of legitimacy. Progress moved at a snail’s pace during the last summit, Cop25 in Madrid, described as one of the worst summits ever.
Yet it is no coincidence that the 25 years of talks have produced such inadequate measures. During this timeframe, free-market ideology has ruled, opposing government regulation of multinational corporations. As Naomi Klein says inThis Changes Everything, this is terrible timing: the moment that the climate demanded regulation of big polluters, our politicians have actively pandered to the interests and power of these companies.
This corporate-friendly power dynamic plays out in the negotiations, too: at Cop25, much unfruitful time was spent on Article Six of the Paris Agreement, which focuses on Carbon Markets. Carbon Markets suit corporate polluters as they allow emissions to continue unabated, while companies look towards emission “offsets” by planting trees or through other complex market mechanisms. Oil and gas major Shell actually claimed to have helped write Article Six of the Paris Agreement..
We need to change the game, and we need to change the power dynamic that underpins international climate negotiations (and politics in general). It’s a process dominated by the rich and powerful, which sees some become wealthier, as others are expected to deal with the consequences.
What can we do as hosts? The UK government is keen to look like climate leaders. However, posturing on the international stage should not be confused with climate leadership: instead, we need examples of meaningful action to curb emissions. But there is a large elephant in the room, a big polluting elephant, that should be swiftly removed.