In an article in today’s Australian, Janet Albrechtsen waxes lyrical about departing boss of the Minerals Council, Brendan Pearson, who she claims was “shoved out of his job as boss of the Minerals Council of Australia by those who prefer feel-good corporate bromides and green myths over energy facts and figures.”
These purveyors of “green myths” were, among others, BHP and Rio Tinto who said they had lost confidence in Mr Pearson due to his unstinting advocacy for coal, something Ms Albrechtsen, on the other hand, considers a virtue, describing Mr Pearson as one of the few “sensible voices” who has “worked tirelessly so that coal, a critical source of baseload power, is now part of a wider national debate about getting energy policy right.”
The article quotes Andrew Michelmore, another former director and chairman of the Minerals Council, as saying “Energy policy was all going in the wrong direction in terms of misinformation” until Pearson’s strong advocacy, based on what is happening in the rest of the world, and working with ministers behind the scenes to settle on an energy policy based on the national interest.
“That certainly influenced the government’s position and the Prime Minister’s position,” Michelmore says.
At the regular climate change talks about the implementation of the Paris agreement, there has been increasing concern regarding the conflicts of interest between fossil-fuel industry and the presence of their representatives at UNFCCC meetings.
Hundreds of business and industry NGOs (BINGOs) are currently accredited as observer organisations with the UNFCCC. Groups such as the World Coal Association, Competitive Enterprise Institute and International Chamber of Commerce have unfettered access to world leaders and delegates at climate negotiations and the chance to influence key policies and decision-making.
Representatives of companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody, BP, Shell and RioTinto have unquestioned access to most discussions, are called upon for advice and hold private discussions with countries that are trying to move the world to stop consuming the products those companies have based their businesses on.
Besides having access to meetings as observers, with no conflict of interest screening, the unprecedented level of corporate influence on the implementation of the Paris agreement was formalised in the global climate action agenda, through which corporations who make carbon-cutting pledges get high-level access to the meetings, can organise side events in the “civil society village”, promote their products in a “gallery” and sponsor the conference.
Australia has been vehement in its opposition to the exclusion of fossil fuel lobbyists arguing that the concept of “conflict of interest” was too hard to define. We came in for particular criticism from Corporate Accountability International (CAI).
“One of the most notable interventions came from Australia, who laid across the tracks, so to speak, to defend Exxon-Mobil by insisting that the very solutions to climate change would come from the very industries driving the climate crisis, making them the key to the solutions for climate change.
As longs as your business model depends on extracting and burning fossil fuels, you have no place helping to craft climate policy. Your profit incentive is going to keep you from doing the right thing. And, frankly, corporations have a duty to maximise profits – so they would be in violation of their shareholders if they were doing anything but.”
CAI released a report on 1st May 2017 titled: INSIDE JOB:Big Polluters’ lobbyists on the inside at the UNFCCC. The report singles out the Business Council of Australia (BCA).
“The Business Council of Australia (BCA) member base is made up of 127 CEOs from Australia’s biggest and wealthiest companies. The council serves as a “way in” to the world of policy debate for its members. It is funded by big time polluters that also play a lead role in deciding its priorities, and its president is an executive of a major polluter. The BCA has given almost no nod to the severity of climate change, its causes, or the dire need for mitigation, and it supports the Paris Agreement only insofar as it does not burden businesses. Consistent with this stance, it has opposed climate policies and dismissed key targets of the Paris Agreement as far-fetched.”
Comparisons are being drawn between the UNFCCC and the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, under which the powerful tobacco industry was completely excluded from any policymaking and due note taken of its irreconcilable conflict of interest with public health.
As with the tobacco industry, Exxon knew about the dangers of climate change many decades ago and have funded a misiniformation campaign of climate change denial ever since. Why the hell are we fighting for them to be part of making the rules?