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LIKE a lingering hand on the shoulder, the coronavirus pandemic has made its presence felt across every decision and action made over these past six months.
It takes a lot of mental energy to navigate these “unprecedented times”, and an unfortunate consequence of this is that we seem to have tuned out the increasingly frantic countdown to our extinction at the hands of profiteering bosses.
The Shell plant at Mossmorran in Fife has ramped up production – and carbon emissions – to record-breaking levels and pollution has doubled. The photographs of unscheduled flaring at the plant last week, dubbed “56 hours of hell” by one MSP, showed a landscape that more closely resembled the iconic opening of Blade Runner than the clear night skies of Fife and Edinburgh.
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The rush toward climate breakdown and the destruction of our planet hasn’t slowed while our attention was justly diverted to curb the spread of Covid-19, and this week was a violent reminder of that.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP as it’s better known, is in theory meant to provide solutions to global climate change and tackle the kind of rogue behaviour we saw at Mossmorran.
COP26, which was meant to take place in Glasgow next month, has been delayed until next year due to the coronavirus – but if it is anything like last year’s conference, it might as well be delayed indefinitely.
Madrid’s COP25 should be considered an abject failure; a climate conference that was marred by inaction and dodgy sponsorship decisions that let huge companies greenwash their dirty histories.
The list of sponsors included some of Spain’s biggest polluters, energy companies such as Endesa and Iberdrola, the parent company of Scottish Power. Santander was also a sponsor of COP25, yet was found to be among the high street names behind companies implicated in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Sponsorship netted these companies huge exhibition stalls, giving them the chance to bare their green teeth at ministers and talk a good game on tackling climate change while continuing to rake in obscene profits through the destruction of our natural world. At the heart of corporate sponsorship is the intent to deceive, and we’ve been deceived for decades already. The concept that individual actions can have a meaningful impact on tackling climate change is largely a myth.
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Around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 can be traced back to just a handful of businesses, with ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron listed among the worst offenders. No amount of trailing bags of cardboard out to recycling bins will even dent the ecological damage caused by a small group of uber-rich companies which continue to put their own wealth above the future of our species.
The term “carbon footprint” was actually created by BP as part of an elaborate PR campaign to push responsibility off the shoulders of energy giants and on to your average member of the public and convince us that climate change is somehow the public’s fault. This kind of branding opportunity is just another example of a great deception that stretches back decades. It costs a lot less to appear green than it does to transition to a green economy.
When COP26 comes to Glasgow, these corporate giants should not be given the opportunity to brush over their records with a few pop-up stands and a bit of well-placed branding. The UK Government, which is hosting the summit, is currently looking for sponsors, and has stated that in order to be eligible they need to be “making real contributions to the fight against climate change” alongside a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. However, according to a freedom of information (FOI) request from Greenpeace, BP has already been accepted as a key stakeholder for the event. In fact, BP executives have already met with the COP26 unit.
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BP has no credible plan to transition to net zero by 2050. Along with several other major oil companies they actually plan to drastically increase oil production over the next 10 years.
I’ve yet to see any reason why the Conservative Government at Westminster should be trusted to take climate change seriously, especially not now that it has appointed former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an official UK trade adviser. As well as having been accused of misogyny and homophobia, Abbott has been branded a climate change denier.
If a so-called expert on trade is more important to this Government than taking its commitment to climate change seriously, I don’t have much confidence that potential sponsors will face any level of scrutiny. How many empty words about tackling climate change will the Tories need to hear before opening the doors of COP26 to some of the worst polluters in the world? My guess would be not many.