Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can You Say “Conflict of Interest”? Not at the UN

When it comes to measures seriously addressing climate change Canadians have pretty low expectations. They know that oil companies have the ear of both Bay Street political parties. Just last week, for example, the Auditor General went public exposing the Trudeau government’s refusal to provide the information he needs to determine the level of subsidies we provide to the industry. But we retain some optimism when it comes to the UN. After all the most credible voice on climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC). It provides scientific advice to governments who in turn negotiate targets at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The problem is that the UNFCC negotiations are being compromised by the very oil giants that continue to create the climate crisis.  These uber-powerful oil companies and groups like the World Coal Association and the US Business Roundtable are allowed into the negotiations at the UNFCCC as observers and are classified as equivalent to civil society NGO’s. They had access to all nations’ delegates, could host side events in the ‘civil society village’, feature their products in a ‘gallery’ and sponsor the conference.

The result has been a pitched battle at the UNFCCC gatherings between countries of the Global South and environmentalists on one side and developed counties like Canada on the other, over the issue of conflict of interest. The fight to demand that the UNFCCC establish rules and definitions regarding conflict of interest was led by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) which presented the secretariat with a petition of 500,000 names calling for the exclusion of fossil fuel companies.

The CAI is working in support of a group of developing nations who make up the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDC)  more than twenty 20 nations, including China, representing a majority of  the world’s population. The LMDC have been asking the UNFCCC to adopt “a clear, legal, policy framework to protect the objective, purpose and principles of the Convention and the Paris Agreement from conflicts of interest.”  This request, made in the November 2016 Marrakech meeting, was repeated at the latest UNFCCC meeting in Bonn last May. In response the US (since withdrawn), Australia, Canada, Russia and Saudi Arabia all claimed that they could not see an issue of conflict of interest. The Australians even claimed: “There is no clear understanding of what a conflict of interest is and it means different things to different people.” The chair of the plenary sessions refused to allow that phrase to be expressed .

Corporate Accountability International pointed out that Australia does not seem to have any difficulty defining conflict of interest in law for its domestic purposes, that is, someone “…has a conflict of interest when the practitioner serves or attempts to serve two or more interests which are not able to be served consistently.”

Ironically, on that same day the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was meeting in Delhi, India. Its strict rules regarding conflict of interest explicitly exclude tobacco companies from its deliberations. The Tobacco Control Treaty states that “there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.”

In fact, a representative of the WHO spoke to the UNFCCC urging them to learn from the tobacco control experience: “(H)eed the remarkable example of the WHO FCTC as a milestone for public health and international health co-operation and know that it’s not an impossible task to prioritize human and environmental health over industry interests.” The plea fell on deaf ears.

In 2016 the climate warmed 50 percent faster than the previous year and was the hottest year ever recorded. But in the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil world of the UNFCCC, the priority of urgent action on climate change is being corrupted by herculean efforts to accommodate the most powerful corporations in the world. According to Kathleen Ruff who attended the meetings as a Canadian delegate of the CAI, by the end of the Bonn meetings  ”the US, the EU, Australia et al. had forced the eradication of the words “conflict of interest”, “integrity”, “reputation”, “safeguard” from the proposal by the countries of the Global South.”Members of NGOs requested permission to demonstrate at the Bonn meetings. They were given permission on condition that they “avoid using ‘Stop Corporate Capture’ or any other reference to corporate/companies/private sector or corporations to ensure that the atmosphere of respect during the sessions is maintained.”

While turning a determined blind eye to the issue of conflict ofinterest, the Bonn meeting approved giving “non-Party stakeholders” even greater ability to influence UNFCCC “deliberations on substantive issues” by, for example, giving lobby groups, like the World Coal Association, greater ability to make interventions, provide regular briefings to the Parties and set the agenda.

It gets worse. Despite the fact that the conflict of interest issue was the most strongly and passionately raised issue when the role of “non-Party stakeholders” was discussed, the 27 page final report has completely excised it from the record. A word search on conflict turns up nothing. Anyone relying exclusively on the report will have no idea it was even raised.

Canada’s official position contributing to this disgusting display of censorship was contained in its 2016 submission ”Enhancing the Effective Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Non-Party Stakeholders.” The liberal-sounding title betrays weasel words about collaboration along-side niceties regarding “strengthened engagement” with indigenous peoples. There was no hint of discomfort with the blatant conflict of interest integrated into the UNFCCC’s protocols. Instead Canada blithely recognized “the critical role” of the “private sector” in supporting climate change action.

So the next time you feel confident that at least at the United Nations the global public interest is being defended remember that our sunny ways government sees big oil as a partner in, well, curbing big oil.

More articles by:

MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail