Businesses and COP21: Their voice is louder than the civil society

How are businesses connected to COP21?

20% of the costs of COP21 are funded by companies including EDF, Air France, Renault-Nissan and Engie, and the voice of the businesses is louder and clearer than ever. In the light of the Paris attacks, which has resulted major restrictions on civil society activism, it is difficult to pose critical responses and alternatives, according to author and activist Naomi Klein.

“they’ve handed a megaphone to the corporations and taken the megaphone away from the social movements”, Naomi Klein to The Guardian

Last week, a group of activists were dragged out of the Solutions COP21  (an EXPO arranged by a large range of companies like Coca Cola and Michelin) as they were protesting against the paradox of the message delivered by the companies, while they are the main emitters of greenhouse gasses. “Live the climate experience” is the slogan of Solutions COP21, which seems vague (and ironically stupid considering  the terrible effects of climate change at the moment) so it is no surprise that many people find it difficult to understand just what the objectives of these companies are.

So what is the position of the businesses?

The businesses are represented at the official negotiations and unlike the NGOs and civil society, the companies’ lobbyists have access to negotiation areas where NGOs are kept on the other side of the closed doors. The most prominent group of business (including Virgin, Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal and Unilever) are gathered as the B Team, and have delivered unified messages throughout the conference. During a meeting this morning, they announced that a more ambitious target is needed, advocating for a 1,5 degree maximum through a zero-emission target for 2050.

Richard Branson, a co-founder of the B Team, have stated that COP21 should provide the guidelines for the businesses to step up their game and invest in renewable energy to reach carbon neutrality in 2050.

“We just need governments to set some rules,” he said. “Carbon neutral by 2050, we will have 35 years to get there. It’s actually just not that big a deal, but we need clear long-term goals set by governments this week. Give us that goal and we will make it happen.”

Prior to COP21, the 2 degree maximum rise of the average global temperature was promoted as an ambitious goal for an agreement outcome of the negotiations. Considering the current predictions, witch points at a 2.7 degree rise or even more, it does in fact seem ambitious, but throughout the conference, the discourse have changed. More than 100 of the 196 countries represented at COP21 are advocating for a 1.5 degree target instead of the original of 2 degrees. Moreover, the scientists baking up this target and claiming that the temperature has already increased with 1 degree since the industrial revolution are finally being voiced and taken seriously, which brings hope for addition to the 2 degree agreement keeping prospects for a 1.5 goal alive.

Even though climate activist are skeptical towards the representation of the companies versus the civil society at COP21, their support of the 1,5 degree limit and thereby the small island states and developing countries could be important for the discussions throughout this second week of negotiations and perhaps even the final agreement.

By: Marie Sakina Chaudhri

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