May 3, 2017

Deconflicting the UNFCCC? Not on our watch.

Stephen Eule

A group calling itself Corporate Accountability International is waging a campaign to evict observers like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Their sin? Looking out for their members.

CAI is out with a hit piece taking to task the Chamber, National Mining Association, Business Roundtable, and other organizations because . . . well, because they have different views from CAI, or they don’t express similar views with sufficient ardor.

CAI doesn’t like that, so it’s campaigning to restrict access to the UNFCCC for individuals and organizations that have “conflicts of interest.” The group proposes to do this by getting the UNFCCC to adopt a definition of conflict of interest so broad that it could tangle up just about any company or business group. It says, for example, that such conflicts “could be financial in nature or could simply point to diverging interests that may undermine policy objectives or outcomes.” So if you have a different perspective, keep it to yourself, please.

Further, the group argues that participants in the UNFCCC negotiations should be “motivated by the sole interest of protecting people and the planet, not private interests or what’s good for business.” Seeing as addressing climate change potentially impacts every nook and cranny of the economy, I guess that means everybody—from coal companies to renewable companies to carbon traders and everybody in between—risks being ensnared in a potential conflict of interest.

We all know what’s going on here. The real goal here is to banish from the room the business community’s views, especially unwelcomed or uncomfortable views.

That won’t happen because, at the end of the day, governments know it will be the private sector—not CAI—that develops, finances, builds, and operates the new energy and other technologies of the future. Most governments recognize the irreplaceable role of the private sector, and in fact, many official government delegations have business representatives on them.

Further, it’s wrong to imply that the Chamber is working to undercut the UNFCCC. The Chamber, through its Energy Institute, plays a constructive role in the UNFCCC process. The Energy Institute, for example, initiated the Major Economies Business Forum on Energy Security and Climate Change (BizMEF), which was modeled after the government-to-government Major Economies Forum begun under President Bush and continued under President Obama. With more than 20 partners from developed, emerging, and developing economies, BizMEF provides governments with a broad array of responsible views on things such as greenhouse gas markets, transparency, technology, finance, national pledges, and adaptation, among other issues.

Governments welcome and recognize the value of this input, even if they don’t always agree with it. We believe, as they do, that making informed decisions sure beats the alternative.

So the Energy Institute will continue to work with our business colleagues from around world to inform the discussions, look after the interests of our members, and speak out on the issues that concern us. And we’ll be counting on the Trump Administration to beat back any proposals to shut out the voice of business from these proceedings.