Why Does the Fossil Fuel Industry Should Be Banned from Climate Change Negotiations, Just as It Was Done with the Tobacco Industry in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?

Source: TheHuffingtonPost

Source: TheHuffingtonPost

As articulated by the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), “…when dealing with the pressing problems of our age, whether they are related to improving health standards or eradicating poverty, there can be no doubt that the nations of the world must work together.”[1] Emphasising on the word i.e. “work together” – by working together, does that mean welcoming the participation of the fossil fuel industry in the climate change negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)?

In relation to maintaining the global temperature below 2°C above the pre-industrial level, notwithstanding the ambitious 1.5°C target, plans to phase out from fossil fuel was one of the undermining prospects for the Paris agreement. As stated by Pascoe Sabido – a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, the Conference of the Parties (COP) has gone on for many sessions without developing an agreement which is fair and progressive, whereby he attributed this to the lobbying of fossil fuel industry.[2]

The “open door” regime has evidently undermined consensus to be reached at numerous COP in the past and is allowing the said industry to continuingly play an influential role in these negotiations. In order to advance their abusive agenda towards our climate, the industry was observed to have manipulated the negotiations by swerving the cause of climate change, stating that it is not primarily due to the increasing utilisation of fossil fuel.[3] For decades, the fossil fuel industry has attempted to obliterate the risks of utilising their products and sought to repudiate regulations,[4] as the UNFCCC and governments are in thrall to transnational corporations, whose business model depends on our continuous consumption of dirty energy,[5] thereof increasing the impacts that the world has to face from the adversely changing climate. The fact that the lobbying initiatives have succeeded in dominating the legislating process is particularly inhibiting of change.

Based on that observation, in order to avoid disinformation and interference from the fossil fuel industry, the question arises is that whether there should be a reform of transparency in terms of the parties who are allowed to be involved in the conference and whether they should have the power in the decision-making process.

Harking back to the success of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), therein lies some aspects which the climate change negotiations may emulate, in spite of the tensed deliberations which arose in attempting to seek for higher commitments to curb the utilisation of tobacco, and consequently alleviate the issue of mortality caused by cigarette smoking.[6]

It is worth noting that the FCTC acknowledges and prioritises the effects of tobacco enough to substantially trump trade over health,[7] even though such exclusion would dismiss the benefits of tobacco trading economically. If one were to scrutinise the difference between the FCTC and the Paris Agreement, it may be concluded that the former incorporates clauses which are more practical per se i.e. action-based; whereas the latter comprises rather generic and abstract clauses. For instance, Article 11 of the FCTC ensures that the packaging of a tobacco product does not provide misleading and deceptive impression about its characteristics with regards to the health effects and emissions.[8]

In addition to that, a stronger language was used in the FCTC which states that parties “shall”, in lieu of “should”, undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, sponsorship etc. by virtue of Article 13 of the same Convention;[9] as opposed to the Paris Agreement, whereby the word “should” was replaced in the final text which can be seen in Article 4(4) in relation to the mitigating efforts of all Member States in reducing carbon emissions.[10]

This could be inferred from the FCTC in the current circumstances of the climate change negotiations that, without the involvement and interference of the fossil fuel industry, the outcome may display a higher indication and willingness to depart from the dependency of fossil fuel, henceforth creating a stronger interpretation of commitments in the clauses of the Paris Agreement.

If the tobacco industry managed to address such issues in the FCTC, why are we not doing the same for a matter which has more urgency before the impacts of climate change become irreversible?

Written by Choy Moon Moon

[1] WTO, ‘Director General Supachai Welcomes WHO Tabacco Agreement’ [2003] WTO News Item https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news03_e/sp_who_tobacco_agr_3march03_e.htm accessed 14 October 2016

[2] A Goodman, ““Corporate Conquistadors”: New Report Exposes How Multinationals Drive, Profit from Climate Change” [2014] Democracy Now http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/9/corporate_conquistadors_new_report_exposes_how accessed 14 October 2016

[3] T McDonnell, ‘The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Bankrolling the Paris Climate Talks’ [2015] Mother Jones: Environment http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/12/climate-change-summit-paris-cop21-fossil-fuels-sponsors accessed 14 October 2016

[4] P C Frumhoff & N Oreskes, ‘Fossil fuel firms are still bankrolling climate denial lobby groups’ [2015] The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/25/fossil-fuel-firms-are-still-bankrolling-climate-denial-lobby-groups accessed 14 October 2016

[5] L F Forero, L Ortiz, P Sabido, R Tansey & D Shaw, ‘Anglo American’s dirty energy lobby and its false climate solution’ [2014] TNI https://www.tni.org/en/publication/anglo-americans-dirty-energy-lobby-and-its-false-climate-solutions accessed 14 October 2016

[6] K E Warner, ‘The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: Opportunities and Issues’ [2008] Vol 50, Salud Publica Mex, 284 http://www.scielosp.org/pdf/spm/v50s3/a04v50s3.pdf

[7] B McGrady, Trade and Public Health: The WTO, Tobacco, Alcohol and Diet (CUP, 2011) 227

[8] WHO, ‘Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ [Geneva, 2003] WHO 9 – 10 http://www.who.int/tobacco/framework/WHO_FCTC_english.pdf

[9] Ibid, 11 – 12

[10] M Raman, ‘The Climate Change Battle in Paris: An Updated Analysis of the Paris COP21 and the Paris Agreement’ [2016] TWN 2 http://twnetwork.org/sites/default/files/Meenabriefingpaper.pdf

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