Conflict of Interest in UNFCCC: Pull Out Polluters from Negotiation

*Ini short article terkait salah satu topik yang mengemuka di Konferensi Iklim, Mei lalu di Bonn. Versi bahasa Indonesia yang (direncanakan) lebih lengkap akan menyusul.

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Climate negotiation has been happening since 1991, while UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) was entered into force on 21 March 1994. This negotiation is expected to produce real solution to solve climate crisis and save the planet, including people who are already impacted by climate crisis. In fact, after 23 years, UNFCCC still not come up with strong commitments to truly solve the root problems of climate crisis, both in its policies, and projects. Moreover, UNFCCC keep producing false solutions that cause more problems to people. Resulted solutions from this negotiation are only benefits to industrial countries, transnational corporations and international financial institutions. For example, REDD and REDD+ in Indonesia have been impacted to our people, women and men who have to loss their livelihood resources, evicted, as well experience economic and social impact caused by the projects. Meanwhile, through Smart Climate Agriculture, government is only accommodating interests of agri-business, and grab farmers’ sovereignty over their production by creating dependency to big company’s seeds and fertilizers.

The active engagement of corporations/private companies on the negotiation table is believed as one of the factors that create these profit-driven solutions. We all know that to solve climate crisis, we need to addressing the root causes of climate change, which is to reduce emissions drastically from the source, i.e. industrial activities and the changing patterns of production and consumption that relies on fossil fuels, one of them by cutting off the investment in fossil fuels. But how it is possible, when companies like Big Oil Gas and Coal Company are parts of the negotiation.

Corporate Accountability International (CAI) reports that more than 250 Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations (BINGOs) have currently been admitted to the climate talks.[1] Meanwhile, based on UNFCC website, 13,9% from Observers are coming from BINGOs. It is a huge number compared with the number of observers coming from impacted communities and groups, such as Indigenous People, Farmer, Women, and Youth.[2] Involvement of BINGOs itself had also bring conflict of interests, since they represent the interests of corporation that basically are polluters for decades. As a respond, Civil Society including environment NGOs, Women’s group as well as Indigenous People, bring voices and raising awareness about the issues of Corporate’s Conflict of Interest in UNFCCC. The discussion about conflict of interest is continuing in the  Bonn Climate Change Conference – May 2017.[3]

This issue was brought to In Session Workshop on Opportunities to Further Enhance Effective Engagement of Non-Party Stakeholder. Kaliyani Raj, from All India Women’s Conference and represent Women and Gender constituency as one of the speakers said that it is Important to adopt clear mechanism to see different between stakeholder who represent public interests and right based groups, versus they who represent the business interests. This statement also supported by some feedbacks from Ecuador Delegation, Walter Schuldt-Espinel, Indigenous groups, Women and Gender Constituency, Climate Justice Now, and Indigenous group. Besides, someone from UN secretariat who’ve been involved in the process of Convention of Tobacco Control also share the experience as an important lesson learn. In that Convention negotiation process, they realized that there is fundamental conflict between tobacco industry and public health interests, so limiting role of tobacco industry in negotiation is very necessary. In the context of UNFCCC, we need to limit the role of actors that might be ‘polluting’ the process.

In the other hand, to create true solution, we need to encourage more spaces for Society and produce people centered solutions. Indigenous People, Peasant, Fisher Folk, already have their initiatives in saving the earth. For example, women live around forest in Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi, Indonesia who use nature’s product such as pandan/screw pine and rattan as material for making handcraft. They will only harvest big pandan/screw pine, with limited amount as needed and then will replant the trees. This initiative is taken to guarantee and the sustainability for the next generations.

This issue also brought to UNFCCC through the in-session Workshop that have objective to discuss opportunity to build relationship between stakeholder to enhance climate commitment into an action. Through the workshop, representative from Indigenous Groups also share how they already took initiatives as ‘guardian of the land.’ They are maintaining and governing it for a long time with their own funding/resources. But ironically public funding distributed through Green Climate Fund is put more in to industries, while Indigenous People are on the ground trying to guard their land.

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To recognize and support people perspective and initiatives in solving climate crisis, it is important to ensure meaningful participation of people, but off course with a clear understanding that there is a different between who represent people’s interests and business’s interests. In the parallel discussion, civil society had also share about their experiences, knowledge, and ideas to enhance participation and involvement of civil society, particularly the impacted groups.  Some ideas and thought also identified, such as ensure national mechanism of parties to give information and spaces for civil society to be able to involve meaningfully, capacity building and awareness raising, translated documents so local people can understand about the negotiation, as well the recognition of CSO as participant instead of observers. It is also important to see and consider specific situation of women, who have limited access and control in many aspects and create affirmative action to encourage their involvement.

This process showed that civil society has been succeed, at least in making ‘noise’ about the issue. Therefore, it is important to monitor the follow up of the workshop and keep making noise and raising awareness, until UNFCCC really take it into account and bring it in the negotiation. Business Sectors should be regulated and obligated in Climate Actions, but not to involve and use their power to influence Climate negotiations.

In conclusion, pull out Business Sectors from the negotiation is a very important issue. As long as they have opportunity to use their power in influencing negotiation, UNFCCC will keep continue producing false solutions that strengthening Inequality and impoverishment. All this time, the negotiation has been reflected as a manifestation of inequality between capital owners who destroy the earth and the people who forcedly evicted from their livelihood in the name of climate change mitigation. Indigenous people, peasant, and fisher folk in global south already impacted by climate crisis, but all of climate projects are not able to save them and solve the root cause. Moreover, they have to loss their livelihood resources and forced to conduct or involve in project that not giving any benefit for them, to conserve the earth from the disaster that not caused by them. For women, who also experience the impact of climate change and climate projects, they even face layered of impact and injustice caused by social, economic, political and cultural barriers that limit their access to and control over resources, capacities and decision making.

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[1] http://www.thebigissue.co.ke/index.php/2017/05/23/conflict-interest-threatens-climate-change-talks/amp/

[2] http://unfccc.int/parties_and_observers/observer_organizations/items/9545.php

[3] The forty-sixth sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 46) and  Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 46) as well as the third part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-3), conducted from 8 to 18 May 2017, in Bonn, Germany.

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