Barack Obama transfers $500m to Green Climate Fund in attempt to protect Paris deal

New installment leaves $2bn owing, with Donald Trump expected to cease any further payments

By Michael Slazek

Barack Obama has heeded calls to help secure the future of the historic Paris agreement by transferring a second $500m instalment to the Green Climate Fund, just three days before he leaves office.

The fund was a key aspect of the Paris agreement signed in 2015, which aims to keep global warming “well below” 2C and aspires to keep warming to 1.5C.

Established in 2010, it is financed by wealthy countries and used to assistdeveloping countries with adaptation and mitigation. It was widely seen as a key measure to bring both rich and poor countries to the negotiating table.

The US committed to transferring $3bn to the fund. The new instalment leaves $2bn owing, with the incoming president, Donald Trump, expected to cease any further payments.

The move followed a large campaign, with more than 100 organisations and nearly 100,000 people calling for Obama to transfer the full $2.5bn owed to the fund.

“The Obama administration is refusing to let president-elect Trump’s posse of oil barons and climate deniers dictate how the world responds to the climate crisis,” said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, of Corporate Accountability International, which led the campaign.

“Tens of thousands of people around the world called on President Obama to step up before Trump takes the keys of our government and tries to reverse decades of climate progress,” she said. “This victory is the climate justice movement’s opening salvo to the Trump presidency. And we’re not going away.”

The money is being drawn from the state department, the same way that the first transfer was, allowing it to be done using executive powers without congressional support.

This piece was originally published January 18, 2017 in The Guardian.

Thousands rally on Boston Common to demand action on climate change

By Nicole Fleming

Thousands rallied at Boston Common on Saturday afternoon to demand action on climate change, one of many such events across the country and world marking the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“We are here today because there is no Planet B,” the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, minister for ecological justice at the Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain, told the sea of cheering people crowded around the gazebo.

A critical goal is to unite people across fractured segments of society in a realization that climate change affects us all, she said in an interview before the rally.

“Liberals or conservatives, blacks or whites — we will all go down together,” said White-Hammond.

The Boston rally, which began at noon, included workshops in the form of action tables and teach-ins. The workshops looked at how climate intersects across various aspects of our society, from education to mass incarceration to immigration, said White-Hammond.

“Massachusetts has been out in front on so many things,” she said. “We need to lead aggressively.”

Studies have cited Boston as one of the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. A report last year by the University of Massachusetts and other local universities indicated that in a worst-case scenario, sea levels could rise more than 10 feet by the end of the century — plunging about 30 percent of the city under water.

White-Hammond said she lives in an area of Dorchester that scientists expect will have monthly floodings by 2070.

“What kind of future is that to leave to my godchildren?” she said. “We are definitely speaking to the [Trump] administration and Congress [today], but also to our local leaders.”

The flagship march took place in Washington, D.C. Like the others, it was sponsored by the Peoples Climate Movement, which links dozens of organizations to fight climate change. Similar rallies were also held internationally, including in London, Bangkok, and the Philippines.

Signs at the rally included “I’m with her,” with an arrow pointing to a picture of the earth; “There are no jobs on a dead planet”; and “At the start of every disaster movie, there’s a scientist being ignored.”

Many attendees spoke of their personal journey to awareness of climate change issues.

Cody Smith, 24, of Roxbury, said he grew up on a cattle ranch in California but is now an animal rights activist and has been a vegan for three years. He noted that experts have said giving up beef will reduce the carbon footprint more than stopping the use of cars.

Colleen Pearce, 60, of Harvard, who held a sign reading, “Our earth is neither Republican nor Democrat,” recalled a family trip years ago to Asia, including Shanghai and Bangkok. The air pollution stands out in her memory.

“In Bangkok, the police wore gas masks to direct traffic,” said Pearce. “Here’s this gorgeous countryside [nearby] and amazing people, and their lifespans are so short.”

She fears American cities are headed for the same avoidable fate, she said.

Her 33-year-old son, Ethan Payne, and his girlfriend, 30-year-old Rose Lassos, said they are passionate travelers and scuba divers, have seen how the beautiful coral reef is being bleached.

They saw orangutans in an Indonesian forest, said Lassos, while listening to the buzzing of saws as deforestation was underway nearby. “Once you make eye contact with an orangutan in the forest,” you can’t help but want to protect them, Lassos said.

The family wants to see Massachusetts implement a carbon fee and dividend program advocated by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a “revenue-neutral carbon tax with 100 percent of the net revenue returned directly to households,” according to the organization’s website.

Timothy Gay, a Boston Latin School environmental science teacher, said he was prompted to start ClimateCurriculum.com after reading a New York Times article about many science teachers lacking the knowledge and lesson plans to adequately teach the next generation about climate change.

The Boston Student Advisory Council helped develop the curriculum with support from the Boston public schools and Youth On Board, which helps organize youth voices.

Climate change is “constantly at the forefront of our [class] discussions,” said Gay. “Almost every topic I touch upon in environmental science deals with climate change issues.”

The website offers climate change lessons for elementary, middle, and high school-aged students, which Boston Student Advisory Council members demonstrated later that afternoon during a teach-in at the Church On The Hill nearby on Bowdoin Street.

One of the Boston Student Advisory Council members — Kathleen Alvarez, a 15-year-old freshman at Snowden International School — spoke from the gazebo at the rally, energizing an audience that included many people around her age.

Twelve-year-old Isabelle Harvey, who attended the rally with her mother, Ann Warner-Harvey, is already thinking generations ahead.

“We’re going to be ancestors some day,” said Harvey.

This piece was originally published in the Boston Globe on April 29. 

Should lobbyists be excluded from climate meetings?

The influence of fossil fuel lobbyists on climate negotiations has come into the spotlight at the Bonn climate conference. But debate over their role has only just begun.

By Hannah Fuchs

The starting gun for next global climate conference COP23 in November went off this week in Bonn, Germany, as representatives from 196 countries gathered for preparatory meetings May 8 to 18.

Most participants share the common goal of achieving sustainable societies and increasing climate protection. But government leaders, environmental activists and policy-makers are not the only ones attending the talks.

Lobbyists from various sectors also use the chance to make their voices heard, and promote their interests – which are not always in line with climate protection.

The black sheep

A recently published report from Corporate Accountability International, a United States-based nongovernmental organization, has highlighted the strong power of trade and business organizations at climate-related events.

Many of these groups, particularly from the fossil fuel industry, represent interests that run counter to environmental protection. However, all are allowed to attend the international climate conferences, hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The National Mining Association in the US, for instance, supports increased coal consumption and contributes to climate change, the report reads. It also regularly sends representatives to climate conferences.

As does the United States Chamber of Commerce. The largest lobbying group in the country – and the largest chamber of commerce in the world – it advocates for nuclear power, offshore oil production and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, among other climate-counterintuitive actions.

Consensus process

Integrating such groups into climate protection negotiations has lead to disagreement with other participants.

As this became a bone of contention, the UNFCCC at the May 2017 climate conference in Bonn organized the first-ever official workshop on how to deal with non-party stakeholders.

Since public participation was one of the main drivers of the Paris climate agreement, limiting the inclusion of certain actors is not the clear solution.

During the discussion, Patricia Espinosa – head of UNFCCC – emphasized the importance of civil society for climate negotiations. She reminded listeners that every participant has their mission, and that no one will be left behind.

A long-overdue topic

Jesse Bragg, a spokesperson for Corporate Accountability International, applauded the effort which, for the first time, allowed all parties and civil society to sit together to openly discuss the conflicts of interests within climate negotiations.

“For a long time, the negotiations ignored that there are large fossil fuel corporations being represented here by trade associations,” Bragg told DW.

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, also of Corporate Accountability International, highlighted how conflicts of interests are not an exception, but rather the norm.

But thanks to this initiative, meaningful conversations among stakeholders have started taking place – and have opened the way to solutions, she added.

WHO and smoking

The World Health Organization (WHO) framework on tobacco control, implemented in 2003, has been presented as a model.

“It is a very good example for parties to take and implement,” Bragg said. “It protects the policy-making space from the interests and interference of the tobacco industry,” he added.

Max Andersson, a representative of the Greens in the European Parliament, holds the same view.

The tobacco business and the fossil fuels industry have more money than any climate organization – and they even have an even larger influence in political spheres, he said.

He held these up as reasons for why it is important to monitor the behavior of such large stakeholders.

With or without you

But closing the climate meeting’s door to lobbyists is not the solution, participants in the discussion argued, since excluding them will not restrict their power.

Even if lobbyists don’t take part within the meetings, they will still influence them from the outside, participants concluded.

“The influence of the fossil fuel industry shapes countries’ positions before they even arrive here,” Bragg pointed out.

Moreover, lobbies are not limited to fossil fuel companies – and some of them contribute to climate protection more efficiently than governments do.

In a wrap-up looking at next steps, panelists spoke of erecting a “firewall” against lobby influence from the fossil fuel industry.

Participants agreed: This first session has marked a starting point for raising awareness around conflicts of interest, and set foundations for future discussion.

But it is only a first step – which will feed into future negotiations, Bragg concluded.

This piece was originally published in German on Deutsche Welle May 10, 2017.

Vulnerable Voices’ lash out as companies sway climate talks

By Hiroko Tabuchi

Developing nations and environmental groups are challenging some of the world’s biggest companies and wealthiest countries over the role corporate lobbyists play in United Nations climate change negotiations.

The dispute opens an additional battle in the struggle over how to fashion a global response to climate change, one that corporate interests appear to be winning, for now.

Though companies are not permitted to participate directly in the climate talks, representatives from almost 300 industry groups are free to roam the negotiations in Bonn, Germany, as “stakeholders,” and to lobby negotiators on behalf of corporations that may seek to slow action, the developing nations and their allies say.

Negotiators from Uganda, Ecuador, the Philippines and other countries have proposed guidelines on lobbying and conflicts of interest that could help curb the corporate presence at the talks. They cite rules that reduced the role of cigarette companies in the global treaty on tobacco as a precedent.

Chebet Maikut, the delegate for Uganda, an East African country recently hit by drought, said undue corporate influence could derail the talks by weakening or delaying emissions goals.

“These corporations are so powerful,” Mr. Maikut said. Uganda’s economy is less than a tenth of the market capitalization of the fossil fuel giant Exxon Mobil, for example. “We need a stronger rule book,” he said.

The Paris climate deal, reached in 2015, commits nearly every country to lowering planet-warming gas emissions to stave off the most severe effects of global warming. But just how to do this needs to be worked out in a series of negotiations.

At a heated session at the latest round of talks on Tuesday, delegates from the United States, Russia and Australia made a last-minute defense of the corporate presence, suggesting that a wider discussion of the issue be delayed.

An American delegate argued that it would be “premature” to continue the discussion over corporate participation at the meeting, said someone at the session, which was abruptly closed to outside observers.

The talks risked becoming “an endless ideas factory,” the American delegate said.

After four hours of debate, delegates agreed to call for suggestions from member nations on how to address the issue, and to take them up next year.

Outside the negotiations, a handful of protesters held signs that read, “Stop Corporate Capture” and “Polluters Out, People In.”

Some environmental groups have argued that the Paris accord does not go far enough, having been watered down by corporate interests that opposed stronger emissions restrictions.

More recently, talks about next steps have been overshadowed by the specter of the Trump administration abandoning the deal.

That is a move even corporations have warned against.

Last week, the chief executives of 30 large American companies, including Dow Chemical and the agricultural giant Cargill, took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal expressing their “strong support” for United States participation in the agreement.

But there may be more to American companies’ support of the Paris process than meets the eye.

American corporations have a strong, self-serving motive for urging the United States not to withdraw, said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, policy director at Corporate Accountability International, which campaigns against corporate influence in public policy.

“It makes complete sense to be at the policy making table than to be on the outside,” Ms. Lawrence-Samuel said. “For years, these talks have been overrun by the very industries at the very heart of the problem.”

The tussle over corporate influence is occurring at a delicate time.

With the overall deal ratified, nations are now hashing out exactly how they will meet the goal of limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheitabove the preindustrial level.

Industry groups are already seeking a reconsideration of the United States’ commitments.

“This ain’t going to happen,” Stephen D. Eule, a policy specialist at the research arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said at an event the chamber hosted on Monday in Bonn.

The group routinely sends specialists to the climate negotiations, and includes a Dow Chemical executive on its board of directors. Cargill is also an active member. The companies have checkered environmental records.

The chamber argued against the effectiveness of domestic steps to regulate emissions, and urged the Obama administration to be wary of global emission reduction goals.

A better alternative was “a revised pledge more in line with reality” that would be “much less ambitious,” Mr. Eule said.

At least one participant appeared stunned.

“Listening to you, I have the feeling that you and I exist in alternative universes,” said Ingo Puhl of the International Emissions Trading Association, who argued that a transition toward renewable energy sources was inevitable, for environmental and cost reasons.

In a statement, the chamber contended that a market-based approach and new technologies would continue to lead to carbon emission reductions.

Dow and Cargill said they supported overall measures to reduce emissions.

The effort to curb corporate influence could seek to ban or restrict the attendance at the talks by industry groups, like the U.S. Chamber or the World Coal Association.

It could also ban “revolving door” appointments of industry officials to policy making posts and impose other rules to prevent conflicts of interest.

The influence of tobacco companies was limited at the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which ultimately led to worldwide restrictions on their advertising and sponsorship, supporters say.

Any changes would require the support of a majority of the almost 200 nations and regions that are party to the climate talks.

Norine Kennedy, a vice president at the lobby group United States Council for International Business, said that corporations and the technological solutions they provide needed to be part of any realistic climate settlement.

“The reason we were able to get the Paris agreement in the first place was that the U.N. was willing to open their doors to a whole range of stakeholders, including businesses,” she said.

Many of the biggest polluters at the talks, including the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan, have been receptive to those concerns.

Trigg Talley, the United States deputy special envoy for climate change and the senior American negotiator in Bonn, called the proponents of the effort to rein in corporate influence “well intentioned but deeply misguided.”

“It’s not a good path to go down,” he said.

Support has grown, however, cutting across several established negotiating blocs at the climate talks, including the Like Minded Developing Countries bloc of about a dozen nations, the Least Developed Country bloc of about 50 nations, and African States.

Another important backer of the effort has been China, which is increasingly replacing the United States as a defender of an ambitious climate change policy. Critics note that China’s biggest enterprises are state-owned, and already have a voice at the negotiating table.

Still, powerful companies are “drowning out the voices of developing nations,” a Chinese delegate argued at a committee on Saturday. “Vulnerable voices must be heard.”

Fossil fuel lobby could be forced to declare interests at UN talks

Developing countries score significant victory for greater transparency from outside parties at UN climate negotiations

By Michael Slezak

 A push from developing countries to force fossil fuel lobbyists taking part in UN climate talks to declare their conflicts of interest has won a significant battle against resistance from the world’s biggest economies including the European Union, US and Australia.

The UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) has agreed to enhance “openness and transparency” for outside parties and will accept submissions from any stakeholder – which could be any person or group affected by climate change or climate change policy – on how it could do so.

“The result was pretty good – understanding that the world’s largest economic powers were adamantly opposed to anything to do with integrity or conflict of interest at all,” said Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International, which has been running a campaign on the issue.

Since May 2016, Ecuador and Venezuela – on behalf of the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries that represents that majority of the world’s population – had been fighting to have a conflict of interest policy introduced where groups with “observer status” must declare their conflicts.

Organisations that have observer status, and can therefore attend meetings and walk the corridors of the conferences, include industry groups that represent all of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and BHP. Many of them have lobbied against policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In May 2016 at a UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, the Venezuelan delegate said the Paris agreement was an “instrument between states” and made a “moral request” that lobbyists should have to declare conflicts of interest.

The move was successfully opposed by rich nations, with the US, EU, Norway and Australia leading the battle.

But the issue was raised again in November at COP 22 in Marrakech and continued this month in Bonn where the Australian ambassador for the environment and lead delegate to the UNFCCC, Patrick Suckling, championed the role of fossil fuel companies in helping to craft climate change policy.

“Some of the companies being alluded to as the polluters of policy, they will be, some of them, the providers of the biggest and best solutions,” Suckling said. “And you could look at some of the statements coming out of ExxonMobil and Shell recently to underline that point.”

ExxonMobil famously hid their knowledge about climate change for decades and investigations have revealed they continue to fund efforts to manipulate public discussions of climate change.

On Tuesday, in a closed-door meeting in Bonn, the discussion continued with the US and Australia fighting to remove any language that included the phrase “conflict of interest” or “integrity”. The Guardian understands the US delegate argued that the US and Ecuador had “divergent views” on what integrity meant.

The US, New Zealand, Australia and the EU also opposed Ecuador’s moves to call for a reporting process, where stakeholders could submit their views on developing a conflict of interest policy, or on a way of improving the “integrity” of the UNFCCC’s engagement with non-party stakeholders.

But on Tuesday in Bonn, Ecuador successfully negotiated an agreement that committed the UNFCCC to enhance the “openness, transparency and inclusiveness of the UNFCCC process” and another that called for stakeholders to submit their views on how that could be achieved.

As a result, the discussion will continue in a year’s time, with the input of anyone who submits their views through the UNFCCC website.

The discussions appeared to shake-up the fossil fuel lobby, with some organising side events at the Bonn meeting to defend their role at the UNFCCC.

Stephen Eule, a climate analyst at the US Chamber of Commerce – a group with observer status at the UNFCCC – led one meeting where he spoke of the need to engage the coal industry; described the US commitments under the Paris agreement as “unrealistically ambitious”; and approvingly described Donald Trump’s moves to dismantle Barack Obama’s environmental regulations.

Eule said the Paris agreement was “lopsided and puts the US at a competitive disadvantage”, saying he expects the Trump administration to negotiate “to get a better deal for the US”.

In a piece published on a US Chamber of Commerce website, Eule defended the role the body plays in the the UNFCCC processes, saying it would continue to “look after the interests of our members and speak out on the issues that concern us”.

According to a Corporate Accountability International report, the US Chamber of Commerce has received millions of dollars from ExxonMobil for “public information campaigns” and executives from Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, and Sempra Energy sit on its board of directors.

“As longs as your business model depends on extracting and burning fossil fuels, you have no place helping to craft climate policy,” Bragg said. “Your profit incentive is going to keep you from doing the right thing. And, frankly, corporations have a duty to maximise profits – so they would be in violation of their shareholders if they were doing anything but.”

This piece was originally published on May 17, 2017 in The Guardian.

The role of industry lobbies in the climate negotiations

International negotiators meet in Bonn to discuss the legitimacy of the role given to these actors at the COPs

By Simon Roger

BINGO, for Business and Industry NGO, is, in French, “non-governmental organizations in business and industry.” With such an acronym, it’s no wonder some voices are wondering about the jackpot that could benefit the economic players present in the climate negotiations! The issue of the presence of lobbyists is in any case taken very seriously by the delegates of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bonn, Germany, in working session until May 18.

For the first time in more than 20 years of multilateral meetings, the 196 UNFCCC member States officially addressed the subject at a nearly five-hour “workshop” on Tuesday, May 9. That term is important because the UN institution presented the meeting as an exchange of views that was by no means conclusive. “We are not here to negotiate anything but to have a conversation,” warned session chairman Tomasz Chruszczow, opening this session in the hemicycle of the World Convention Center.

Nevertheless, it is indeed a negotiation that takes place, between countries and organizations with contradictory positions and sharp arguments. A summary of Tuesday’s meeting should be sent to delegates on Friday, May 12, to guide further discussions. From the 1992 Rio summit, BINGOs are one of the nine non-state actors to be included in climate conferences (the COPs), along with environmental NGOs, local experts, indigenous peoples, research unions, feminist and gender organizations, youth movements, and farmers. They show an exponential growth: with 163 at COP1 (in Berlin in 1995), these various non-state entities numbered more than 2,000 at COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016.

« Open all doors »

If they do not have the right to vote on decisions – the prerogative reserved to the states – they have observer status which allows them to speak in plenary, to follow the debates of the negotiating groups and to organize events during COPs. “Hundreds of trade associations have access to climate negotiations, and many of them are funded by some of the world’s largest polluters and climate skeptics,” said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, from the US-based NGO Corporate Accountability International. “They represent the main obstacle to raising the level of ambition of action against global warming.”

In a report released on May 2, the Boston-based NGO profiles the lobbying groups it considers the most errant. The US Chamber of Commerce is funded by the ExxonMobil, Chevron and Peabody Energy groups, one of whose priorities for 2017 is to increase the production of fossil fuels. There is also the Business Roundtable, representing the major oil companies, which is favorable to drilling, mining and hydraulic fracturing, activities that emit high greenhouse gas emissions. The report also profiles the Business Council of Australia, a fierce opponent of an Australian carbon tax.

“Some of the companies suspected of polluting political action will provide the biggest and best solutions [against global warming],” the representative of Australia said during the talks. At the previous session of the UNFCCC, in May 2016, the country had applied pressure, bringing with it the “umbrella group” (a coalition representing Australia alongside the United States, Canada, and Russia) to stop the discussion that had begun on conflicts of interest.

Building on the example of the World Health Organization, which, in the name of defending public health, put an end to the tobacco industry’s interference tactics, Corporate Accountability International, supported by a heterogeneous coalition around Ecuador, from emerging countries, and from China and India, invites negotiators to follow the same path and establish a transparent process for the admission of observers. This system would ensure that actors act for the protection of the planet and not the promotion of private interests. As for the worst polluters, “kick them out,” says the American NGO.

“This measure would be counterproductive and backwards. In the face of the climate emergency, we need to open all doors,” says Norine Kennedy of the United States Council for International Business. This private sector official refutes the accusations of collusion others have attached to certain BINGOs.

« Discreet discussions »

Their degree of influence on the negotiations is difficult to assess,” admits Sébastien Duyck, a lawyer at the Center for International Environmental Law in Geneva. “Discussions are discreet, there is no register to identify the interlocutors who have intervened in a particular meeting.”

“The influence of lobbyists is not built in the corridors of the UNFCCC,” said a negotiator who wished to remain anonymous. “It is forged in the relationships of power that these industry representatives impose upstream, in their respective countries.”

The Paris agreement, concluded at COP21 at the end of 2015, reinforced the role of these groups in the negotiations. “Since the efforts of the States will not be enough to contain the warming below the 2°C threshold, the Paris text invites the parties to develop maximum synergies,” analyzes Amandine Orsini, professor of political science at the University of Saint-Louis in Brussels. “Non-state actors are well suited to play this role because they operate in a network.”

For Orsini, the initiative launched in Bonn is unlikely to succeed. If the UNFCCC succeeds in imposing a code of conduct – bold betting in a forum where any decision requires a consensus of the 196 member states – it may “shoot itself in the foot. Who other than large industrial groups can finance, on a large scale, new technologies that climate policies need?”

This article was originally published on May 11, 2017 in French on Le Monde.

Do business groups have too much influence at Germany climate talks?

By Jed Kim

This piece was originally published and aired on NPR’s Marketplace on May 8, 2017. Audio is available here.

Climate talks are underway in Bonn, Germany, this week starting on Monday. There have been concerns that the new Trump administration may be overly friendly to energy companies at the cost of the environment. Some countries at the talks worry that business has too much influence over delegates, and they are calling for more transparency.

Oil Giant Shell Warns U.S. Not To Withdraw From Paris Accord On Climate

By Alexander Kaufman

Royal Dutch Shell has issued its starkest warning yet to the Trump administration to not pull out of the Paris Agreement addressing climate change.

The Anglo-Dutch oil behemoth said withdrawing from the historic 2015 deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions “would be unhelpful on a number of fronts,” sacrificing diplomatic leverage in international trade deals and impeding U.S. companies.

“What I think would happen as a consequence of [withdrawal] is that the U.S. would weaken its own hand by basically uninviting itself from a number of [negotiating] tables,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told the Financial Times in an interview published Monday morning.

President Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to “cancel” the pact, signed by all but two countries. The White House is split on whether to move ahead with that promise, but sources told HuffPost earlier this month he is leaning toward withdrawal. He could announce a decision by next month, after the conclusion of a G7 summit of the world’s most industrialized democracies. U.S. departure from the Paris Agreement would weaken the accord, despite pledges by other countries, including China, to forge ahead, van Beurden said.

“The U.S. has a major crop of companies that deliver technologies that are going to be relevant in the energy transition, and one way or another they will also find themselves probably more disadvantaged than advantaged by the U.S. pulling out” of the agreement, he said. “So I cannot see where the upside is.”

Shell did not respond to a request from HuffPost for comment.

Most Americans support the agreement, with 61 saying the U.S. should stay in the deal, while just 17 percent supported backing out, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken last week. Even deposed Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the pact last November.

Most major oil, gas and coal companies, including U.S. giant Exxon Mobil Corp., back the deal. So do a bevy of other corporate titans, such as Walmart, General Mills and DuPont. But Shell may be the pact’s most vocal proponent in the fossil fuel industry.

And with good reason ― the company has money on the line.

“With the U.S. being the largest investment destination for a company like Shell, yes, I think I would regret having a lot of business here that potentially could be at a disadvantage because of [the] implications of that decision to pull out’’ of the accord, van Beurden said.

It takes years, sometimes decades, for oil and gas firms to yield profits on drilling exploration, and the White House has little effect on current investment decisions that van Beurden said would “probably only become economically relevant after the current president’s term.” But he said the company would consider drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, an area Trump reopened to offshore exploration with an executive order last month.

Last December, President Barack Obama blocked offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic oceans with an executive order the Trump administration has since reversed. In 2015, Shell failed to find a big enough oil reserve in the waters off Alaska, and van Beurden said the company would not return to the region.

“Arctic offshore? No. We’re done with that,” he said. “We had our episode there. We know what it takes, how difficult it can get.”

Shell’s loud opposition to a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement comes amid a growing fight at the United Nations over fossil fuel companies’ role in climate negotiations. Environmental groups and negotiators from developing countries most at risk from climate change proposed new rules on lobbying and conflicts of interest that could limit the corporate presence at the talks. Big companies cannot participate directly in the negotiations, but nearly 300 industry groups attended the talks this month in Bonn, Germany, potentially influencing the scope of regulations and agreements developed there.

“With the U.S. being the largest investment destination for a company like Shell, yes, I think I would regret having a lot of business here that potentially could be at a disadvantage …”

Proponents of the new guidelines cite the exclusion of cigarette companies from the global tobacco treaty that came to fruition in 2003. Fossil fuel firms play a much more critical role in the global economy than tobacco companies, so the situations are not perfectly analogous.

Tobacco firms spent years undermining studies that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases, and negotiators disqualified the companies from joining treaty talks based on admissions that they covered up evidence. Shell publicly denied fossil fuels’ role in global warming for years, but a corporate film, published by a Dutch news site last February, showed that the company understood the link between burning oil and climate change as far back as 1991.

Still, Shell has more of a stake in a low-carbon future than cigarette companies do in ending the smoking epidemic.

“Successful outcomes of climate policymaking will have a big impact on the fossil fuel industry,” Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, international policy director at the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, told HuffPost. “We have to be realistic and recognize that economies are largely dependent on the fossil fuel industry still.”

This article was originally published on HuffPost May 22, 2017.

U.N. examines fossil fuel influence in climate talks process

By Matt McGrath

This article was originally published on BBC Science and Environment

Campaigners say there should be greater scrutiny of industry bodies that are involved in UN climate talks.

Environmental groups allege that fossil fuel industries are funding a number of business and industry participants in these talks.

These groups should be restricted, say the campaigners, because they say their goal is to slow down or derail progress.

Business representatives say that the discussion is an attempt at censorship.

At this meeting in Bonn, the UN has convened a special workshop on the role of observer organisations that make up a significant proportion of the attendees at these events.

Some countries including India, China, Indonesia and Ecuador are calling for clearer and tighter rules around potential conflicts of interest.

recent report from Corporate Accountability International gave details of what the group claimed were the connections between fossil fuel industries and business non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with links to the UN climate talks process.

“There are over 270 business and industry NGOs accredited to the UNFCCC,” Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International told BBC News.

“Many of these groups represent the interests of fossil fuel companies around the world.”

“What many parties are saying now is that we need to take a look at what voices we want to have heard in the climate policy making process.

When asked what the differences were between the industry and green groups that try and influence proceedings, Mr Bragg said:

“Environmental groups represent the public interest – these business groups represent the financial interests of certain industries. Fundamentally we are talking about representing people or representing profits.”

Supporters of tighter regulations say the example of the World Health Organization is a good model for the climate talks. The tobacco industry is not allowed to be part of the negotiations relating to the Global Tobacco Treaty.

However, one of the groups that has been held up in the report as having conflicted interests has strongly dismissed the idea that it has ever taken part in the UN climate talks process.

The National Mining Association (NMA) is a US body that represents the interests of more than 300 corporations and organisations involved in the extraction of coal and mineral resources.

“NMA is on record as withdrawing from these discussions and urging our government to do the same,” Luke Popovich, NMA vice president told BBC News via email.

“We are listed on a UNFCCC website as an ‘observer’ from a filing some 10 years ago that was never activated and was never removed from the site. NMA will have no role in these discussions, period.”

Mr Popovich also railed against the attempt of green groups and others to restrict organisations that promote the use of fossil fuels from having a role in the UN discussions.

“If they believe climate change is real why do they wish to prevent dialogue, to censor discussion, on what might be the rational policy responses to climate change?

“They are smitten by their own voice and no other.”

Another group that was criticised in the Corporate Accountability report was the US Chamber of Commerce. It has rejected the accusations out of hand.

“It’s wrong to imply that the chamber is working to undercut the UNFCCC,” wrote the Chamber’s Stephen Eule in a blog post.

“The chamber, through its energy Institute, plays a constructive role in the UNFCCC process. The energy institute, for example, initiated the major economies business forum on energy security and climate change, (BizMEF) which was modelled after the government-to-government major economies forum begun under President Bush and continued under President Obama.”

“With more than 20 partners from developed, emerging, and developing economies, BizMEF provides governments with a broad array of responsible views on things such as greenhouse gas markets, transparency, technology, finance, national pledges, and adaptation, among other issues.

At a time when the participation of the US in the Paris climate agreement is uncertain, the UN is unlikely to take swift action, if any, on the question of observer organisations, their operations and funding.