A Massachusetts delegation, organized by CABA, is attending the COP23 UN Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany. The following piece is the second in our series on the climate conference.
Updates from COP23 Pt. 2: The Role of Business and Markets in Climate Policy
Today COP23 delegates had the rare opportunity to sit down in an informal conversation with the COP President – the Prime minister of Fiji – and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary to discuss the policies and guidelines for non-state actors at future climate talks. The packed meeting room was filled with NGO representatives huddled around about 30 state representatives and observer delegations. Several issues were front of mind for participants, including increasing opportunities for youth delegates, creating more speaking opportunities, and the lack of transparency. One agenda item seemed to gain the most attention — the role of major polluters within the negotiation halls.
This is not a new issue to international negotiations or the COP process. It was only a few years ago when a large portion of observer organizations walked out of the discussions underneath the rally cry of “Polluters Talk, We Walk”. Now they are back not in protest, but with a solution: include a conflict of interest disclosure clause within UNFCCC.
The effort is currently spearheaded by several of the leading climate action NGOs, including Corporate Accountability International, a relative newcomer to the climate negotiations. CAI recently published a report that takes aim at different interest groups and their relationship to the fossil fuel industry. As we have covered in the past, corporate influence has, at best, challenged the ambition, and at worst, compromised the legitimacy of the negotiation process.
Much of the environmental NGO debate, which was supported by a large array of other constituencies, references the role of corporate sponsorship, as well as official text which promotes climate solutions that are favored by multinational corporations, i.e. carbon markets.
Article Six of the Paris Agreement creates the basic framework for international carbon markets and trading. At COP23 in Bonn, countries are looking to add further context to this framework and start to design the procedures and operations of such markets. The current text leaves the door fairly wide open to carbon tax policies, cap and trade programs, and cap and invest policies. It also mentions the opportunity for signatory states to trade mitigation credits across international borders. This may allow the wealthiest countries to do very little to reduce emissions and instead buy emission credits from those who see an opportunity in monetizing forests and other carbon sinks (predominantly in the Global South).
While we certainly share many of these concerns, banning future business engagement and the denouncement of market mechanisms as a “pervasive and insidious hold of the neoliberal ideology” is misguided. The shortcomings of the European Union Emissions Trading System receives much of the focus; however, the effectiveness of subnational emissions markets, such as the efforts happening in California, British Columbia, Quebec and the Northeast’s RGGI, are ignored. All of these instances have led to large reductions in emissions while also providing investment in communities as they undergo crucial transitions away from fossil fuels. Those who are attending the climate talks and challenge markets should look at replicating best practices and promoting success stories rather than pushing back on Article Six in its entirety.
Many business leaders attend the COPs looking for a constructive outcome. They provide technical assistance, a gateway into frontline communities, and return to their communities to promote the solutions they learn along the way. Encouraging good faith actors at future COPs is a must. If there are institutions or groups that are only there to disrupt the process and promote anti-climate science to garnish individual profit, the UNFCCC must recognize this and propose a new accreditation process. At the same time, not all business is there to disrupt the proceedings, and in many cases businesses have been a constructive partner to state and NGO actors.
The Climate Action Business Association will be providing updates daily during COP23 in Bonn, Germany. This year’s delegation is spearheaded by Executive Director, Michael Green and consists of policy makers from the Massachusetts State House. Representative Jim Cantwell, Representative Josh Cutler, Representative Jen Benson and Senator Michael Barrett will be joining Mr. Green at the climate talks. The delegation is supported by staff from Northeastern University. Follow CABA News and social media for the latest news and updates.