French handbag giant set to help fund 2015 conference amid concerns meeting will be dominated by big business
By Ed King
Prepare for a feast of garish low carbon handbags and extra light flight trunks – to save airline long haul fuel costs.
Luxury luggage maker Louis Vuitton will be one of the main sponsors of this year’s UN climate summit in Paris, according to media reports.
The French brand, beloved of jet-set elite Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, will contribute to a €34 million funding target the government has set for private sector contributions.
December’s summit – where a global pact to address climate change is set to be signed off by over 190 countries – is estimated to cost France nearly €200 million to stage.
The MediaPart website, which broke the original story, says officials have been under pressure to find partner companies. Others believed to be considering contributions include Renault and waste management firm Suez Environment.
“In doing so, the government exploits a general interest of conference to meet the special interests of a few companies,” the site says.
“All for a few million euros a major economic power such as France should be able to find to fund a ‘historic conference’, in the words of François Hollande.”
Previous UN climate summits have been criticised for their strong links to business.
One observer joked the organisers of the 2012 Doha summit thought they were organising an air conditioning symposium as opposed to a climate conference, mocking the meeting’s heavy energy use.
In 2013 the Polish organisers generated international outrage after organising a “Climate and coal conference” on the climate summit’s sidelines, while green groups also questioned sponsorship from BMW, energy firm Alstom and mining multinational Arcelor Mittal.
The signs are Louis Vuitton – part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy conglomerate – may tick a few more boxes than those coal and oil guzzlers.
In 2009 its US arm gave 15% of sales to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.
Since then its public outreach on climate change has been limited, but the company’s 2014 annual report reveals it cut greenhouse gas emissions 2% on 2013 levels, water consumption 3%.
The group’s leather goods arm received ISO 14001 environmental certification, while it says the packaging for its Clicquot champagne is “100% biodegradeable”.
Inside France, the company has faced intense criticism for tax avoidance.
In 2012 its owner Bernard Arnault — frequently labelled the “richest man in Europe,” applied for dual citizenship in Belgium to avoid new tough taxes on the rich.
The French foreign office and Louis Vuitton have both been invited to comment on this story.