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After Widespread Fossil Fuel Lobbying at COP27, Whitehouse, Cardin, & Markey Call for UN Climate Conferences to Require Corporate Participants to Provide Audited Climate Political Influencing Statements

Government and Politics

December 7, 2022


More than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists descended on COP27 in Egypt last month

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Ed Markey (D-MA) have sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterras calling on the United Nations to require sponsors and participants at future climate conferences to provide audited corporate climate political influencing statements.  Last month, the three senators traveled together to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to observe the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties (COP), which also attracted more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists.  COPs are the world’s primary venues for securing international cooperation on lowering emissions and fighting climate change.

“In addition to the issue of hosting a COP in a country where human and environmental rights defenders are routinely imprisoned, it did not escape our attention that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended this COP.  We urge you to take steps to ensure that the COP itself can avoid direct interference from corporate actors with a vested financial interest in undermining climate action,” wrote the Senators.

“We would recommend that in order to be allowed to be a sponsor, have a pavilion, be a presenter, or attend a COP, a company be required to disclose an audited corporate climate political influencing statement.  Such a requirement would bring much-needed transparency to corporate climate-related political influencing activities around the world, and would help restore public faith that the COP process is not being abused by companies as an opportunity to greenwash,” they added.

Full text of the Senators’ letter is below.

Dear Secretary General Guterres:

We recently attended the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties (COP) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  This was not our first COP, as we have attended numerous other COPs including those held in Paris and Glasgow.  We are extremely appreciative of the work that you and the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat do to organize the COPs and to build global support for reducing carbon pollution and combatting climate change.

In addition to the issue of hosting a COP in a country where human and environmental rights defenders are routinely imprisoned, it did not escape our attention that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended this COP.[1]  We urge you to take steps to ensure that the COP itself can avoid direct interference from corporate actors with a vested financial interest in undermining climate action.  One of the sponsors of COP27, Coca-Cola, has been found to be the world’s top plastic polluter for five years running.[2]  Plastic production, in addition to fouling our oceans, is of course a large source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Beyond companies in the fossil fuel and plastics sectors, hundreds of major corporations attend COPs, often using the occasion to buttress their green credentials.  For example, numerous banks and other financial institutions frequently come to COPs to discuss various sustainability initiatives, all while continuing to finance fossil fuel projects around the world.[3]  What’s more, many of these same companies lobby against climate legislation, fund trade associations or other groups that lobby against climate legislation, donate to candidates who oppose climate action, donate to outside spending organizations that support candidates who oppose climate action, and/or sit on the sidelines and fail to use their influence to support climate action.

Such active hostility to climate action or passive disinterest are incompatible with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.  Indeed, the Environmental Defense Fund has noted that “[t]he most powerful tool companies have to fight climate change is their political influence.”[4]

We couldn’t agree more, and we were very pleased to see the United Nations recognize in its new Integrity Matters report the centrality of aligning corporate political influencing activities with scientific emission reduction targets.[5]

To this end, we would encourage you to consider instituting new policies for corporate participation at COPs.  We would recommend that in order to be allowed to be a sponsor, have a pavilion, be a presenter, or attend a COP, a company[6] be required to disclose an audited corporate climate political influencing statement.  Such a requirement would bring much-needed transparency to corporate climate-related political influencing activities around the world, and would help restore public faith that the COP process is not being abused by companies as an opportunity to greenwash.

We would be happy to discuss this matter with you and/or your staffs at your convenience.  Again, thank you for your continued leadership and warmest regards from the United States Senate.

Sincerely,