OPN Climate Change
While the planet is warming at an alarming rate, researchers predict that due to increasing emissions and a possible El Nino weather pattern later this year, the world may pass the 1.5C global warming threshold within five years Image Credit: Gulf News

The European Union’s climate monitoring unit says the average global temperatures at the start of June this year were the warmest ever recorded. While the planet is warming at an alarming rate, researchers predict that due to increasing emissions and a possible El Nino weather pattern later this year, the world may pass the 1.5C global warming threshold within five years, though temporarily.

At this critical time, the world is eagerly expecting a successful UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) this year that will take place in UAE. COP28 is particularly important as the world must take stock of its progress at the halfway point between Paris and 2030.

In 2015 Paris, the world consented to limit global warming to 1.5C compared to preindustrial levels by 2050. In order to achieve that target, the world needs to reduce its emissions by 43 per cent by 2030.

Though the first Global Stock Take (GST) at the COP28 will give a comprehensive assessment of the progress achieved in the last seven years, the United in Science 2022 report clearly states that greenhouse gas concentration continues to rise and the global carbon emission in 2022 was above the levels recorded before the pandemic.

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Prioritising planetary survival

So, for the planet’s health and well-being, the success of COP28 is highly critical. The UAE Presidency understands the challenge and has committed to making the world respond to the Global Stock Take with a clear-cut action plan.

To frame the action plan at COP28, the member countries need to agree on a set of policies and programmes that will require effective implementation. One of the major hurdles on this path often comes from the lobbying by various stakeholders and corporate houses who oppose energy transition as needed by the climate agenda.

In 2019, a report in Forbes pointed out that the world’s five largest publicly owned oil and gas conglomerates spend around $200 million annually to lobby against binding climate-motivated policies. With this amount, they outspend almost all international NGOs advocating for a fast transition to green energy.

Lobbying is a legal right of big companies to use during climate negotiations. Lobbying is also a key component of democratic policymaking as it facilitates putting forward companies’ and business houses’ views and positions to decision-makers. However, the lobbying needs to be fair, just, and inclusive. It must also prioritise planetary survival over promoting corporate or client countries’ interests.

Lobbying can be both direct and indirect. Direct lobbying is when a lobbyist directly interacts with decision-makers, while indirect lobbying is to influence the policy by shaping public opinion through various means by using mass media, funding climate sceptics, or organising public protests.

Image Credit: WAM

National and global climate goals

Big companies have often successfully lobbied to limit the scope of climate laws and policies. An example is the weakening and restricting the effectiveness of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System.

Every year, companies dealing with oil and gas, cars, and banking spend large amounts of resources to delay or block laws and policies to prevent climate catastrophe.

In 2022, the US-based fossil fuel companies were at the top of the list of the world’s most obstructive organisations over climate policy engagement.

However, big companies and global corporations are not always campaigning against climate policies, and not all corporate climate lobbying is bad. There has also been a shift in influence from the coal lobby to the gas lobby, and it is not very much in conflict with climate change goals.

Last year, chief executives of 154 major global businesses, including Microsoft, Unilever, and Nestle, wrote an open letter to the President of the European Commission, urging the EU to prioritise a green transition for achieving energy security.

Many associations of companies, like ‘We Mean Business Coalition’ and investor networks, like ‘Principles of Responsible Investment’ are engaged in lobbying governments for rules and policies that facilitate the private sector to contribute to national and global climate goals.

Responsible lobbying

Though there is increasing positive lobbying by the private sector, it is true that lobbying by the companies and trade associations has become a significant barrier for the countries in undertaking ambitious commitments and agreeing to effective policymaking toward achieving climate goals to which they had agreed in 2015.

In some instances, the lobbyists push the planetary climate to the dangerous extreme by blocking or diluting policies that would enable the world to transition from fossil fuel-based energy to green energy.

The delaying tactic also works against the companies’ self-interest as they get exposed more to weather-related risks and uncertain and unpredictable energy policies in the future. Moreover, lobbying against progressive climate policies harms the reputation of companies and business associations.

The Paris Agreement is a ratified commitment of almost all countries of the world. Thus, the companies also have obligations to contribute to its effective implementation as they are part of these countries. Companies and business associations need to stop lobbying against progressive climate policies.

They carry moral and social responsibility to lobby for adaptation and implementation of effective climate policies to fulfil the commitments made in Paris.

There is, however, an increasing desire among them to engage in responsible lobbying. If that happens, that will undoubtedly facilitate the negotiation process at COP28 to frame a clear-cut action plan to limit global warming adhering to the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.