NGOs cry ‘greenwash’ over Paris climate talk sponsors

Companies including Air France, Renault-Nissan and Suez Environnement will foot 20% of €187,000 bill for critical summit

Air France is one of the sponsors for COP21 (Pic: Flickr/Doug)

Air France is one of the sponsors for COP21 (Pic: Flickr/Doug)

By Megan Darby

Staging UN talks costs money, not least when you’re expecting 40,000 people to show up.

The French government has set a provisional budget of €187 million for this December’s critical climate summit in Paris.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of the 2013 Warsaw talks, where green groups accused the hosts of putting coal over climate, France originally proposed to fund it all from public money.

But after a Senate hearing questioned the use of taxpayer cash, it decided to levy up to 20% from corporate sponsors.

Revealing the names this week, the organisers sought to make a virtue of business backing. Civil society involvement, in all its diversity, was “essential to the success” of the talks.

It is in keeping with their “agenda of solutions“, which seeks to mobilise climate commitments from the private sector as well as political players.

And some on the list have made green pledges: Axa last week promised to divest €500 million of coal assets, while Ikea is aiming to get 100% of its energy from renewables by 2020.

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Corporate Europe Observatory is not convinced.

It highlights the records of sponsors Air France, Renault-Nissan and Suez Environnement on green issues.

Air France took part in aviation industry resistance to EU efforts to put a price on their emissions. Renault-Nissan is a carmaker, they note without further comment. Suez Environnement is “known for its pro-fracking lobbying”.

“We cannot negotiate a climate agreement with those who are responsible for climate change: states must listen to citizens’ interests, and not the private interests of lobbies and multinationals,” says CEO’s Pascoe Sabido.

The coal plants owned by EDF and Engie are responsible for half of France’s emissions, adds Friends of the Earth’s Malika Peyraut.

“Putting the most important climate conference of the decade under the patronage of climate-incompatible businesses does not bode well.”

Maxime Combes of ATTAC France notes BNP Paribas’ support for coal projects.

“The government is offering a cheap and easy opportunity for multinational climate criminals to greenwash their image,” she says.

“Would we entrust the fight against tobacco to cigarette manufacturers? Why do it for climate policy?”

Read more on: Climate finance | COP21 | UN climate talks