The Corporate Cookbook
BSSB.BE corporateeurope.org 05.01.2016
You would be forgiven for believing that the corporate world has had a change of heart and is now sticking to a strictly climate-friendly diet. Embracing low-carbon natural gas, a global carbon price, ‘net-zero emissions by the end of the century’ or ‘climate-smart agriculture’ are top of the menu. But peel back the PR and you reveal a business-as-usual recipe guaranteed to cook the planet: market fundamentalism, pie-in-the-sky techno solutions and some good old fashioned rebranding of discredited ideas are the perfect ingredients for any corporate climate criminal.
But rather than sending the dish back, our political leaders have asked for seconds. This briefing shows just when, where and how corporations are trying to capture the agenda of this winters UN climate talks in Paris, COP 21.
Peeling back the PR reveals that the dish that’s on offer is nothing short of a climate catastrophe. Big business is writing a recipe guaranteed to cook the planet:
We can’t choose the best ingredients—maximum economic growth and a ‘better’ fossil fuel (natural gas) must be included. Conflicting measures such as restrictions on dirty fuel imports must be left out
We can’t control the cooking process—market signals, not regulators, will guide the way
It’s the same old business-as-usual recipe dressed up as ‘cordon verte’—they want to appear green, but industry’s agenda is to keep on emitting greenhouse gases and have them ‘sucked’ out of the atmosphere with pie-in-the-sky new technologies instead
In some cases it’s just yesterday’s left overs dressed up as a new meal—with industrial agriculture being re-branded as ‘climate smart’ for example
The market-based and techno-fix solutions on the table are diverting attention from the real culprits and delaying real action. Most political leaders have been happy to choose measures that suit existing business models and continued corporate profit-making. We need a different cookbook! And different cooks, for that matter.
At this point in time there’s little prospect of the deal that’s being cooked up in Paris delivering anything for the climate. But it could still be an important turning point in terms of de-legitimising the dangerous and destructive role that corporate climate criminals are currently playing in climate policy-making. Let’s clean up our kitchens, both in Paris and in our capitals!
Ingredient 1: Short-termism
When the EU was drafting its 2030 climate targets, the ERT, a very influential European cross-sectoral business lobby, which includes CEOs from ArcelorMittal, BASF, BMW, E.ON, Repsol and Shell, had their annual private dinner with the French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
They stressed that “any climate or energy policy must be adapted to ensure that the goal to increase industry’s share of EU GDP to 20% by 2020 is respected.”16 Ministers in the EU’s Competitiveness Council also emphasised “the need for a more balanced approach between the EU’s industrial, energy and climate policies”. This line of thinking is alarming, because ‘balancing’ industry and climate policies basically means that targets on climate change should be watered down if necessary.
Sponsorship of the talks: some of France’s dirtiest corporations, including airlines (Air France), nuclear and coal giants (EDF), energy utilities (Engie – formerly GDF Suez) and coal-financing banks (BNP Paribas) are among the sponsors of the Paris climate talks. There is arguably no better platform than the official one, although sponsoring officiallyendorsed events, such as Solutions COP 21, is also a very popular corporate greenwashing strategy .
Ingredient 2: More fossil fuels
Key business argument Natural gas – both conventional and fracked – is the new ‘clean energy’ solution according to the fossil fuel industry, because it has half the emissions of coal when burnt. They argue that it can be a transition fuel towards a future with energy from wind, sun and waves, or be a permanent ‘reliable’ part of the energy mix. Who’s pushing it Primarily Big Oil and Gas, but this argument is echoed around the corporate world.
Ingredient 3: The ‘invisible hand of the market’
Key business argument Industry is arguing that with a global price on carbon – meaning thatcompanies have to pay for every tonne of CO2 equivalent emitted – the business community would move away from dirty investments towards low-carbon ones in the most cost-efficient way possible. The carbon price could be set via a fixed tax per tonne, or the market could be allowed to determine the price (see Box 4).
Who’s pushing it Business, world leaders, international financial institutions – in short, all of those with something to lose from moving away from the current neoliberal economy. Example Numerous platforms have been set up specifically to promote the issue or have taken up the cause, including the Caring for Climate campaign set up by the Global Compact, UNEP and UNFCCC, and the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. Two months before COP 21, leaders of Germany, France, Ethiopia, Chile, Philippines and Mexico called for a global carbon price.
The Business and Climate Summit in Paris – organised by the biggest business lobby groups (see Box 1) – made it one of their three key messages. Speaker after speaker hammered home its importance, with Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre claiming it was the “single most efficient measure” with which to tackle climate change. Europe’s Oil and Gas Majors have also publicly offered to help the UNFCCC establish a global carbon price.
What it means in the real world The push for a global carbon price is actually a long-standing battle over who’s in charge of tackling climate change: big business (who want to be able to choose the cheapest options based on a carbon price) or governments (who should be introducing policies based on furthering society’s best interests).
Ingredient 4 Risky and yet-to-bediscovered techno-fixes
Key business argument Rather than actually reducing emissions to zero, ‘net zero’ means that some emissions can keep rising but be offset via the removal of emissions from the atmosphere (‘negative emissions’). The suggested aim is to reach ‘net zero’ emissions, and deadlines range from 2050 to the end of this century.
Who’s pushing it Business coalitions like Richard Branson’s B-Team and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); scientists and research institutes heavily invested in negative emissions; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Example The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has made the “goal of global net-zero emissions within the 21st century” their first ask of governments ahead of COP 21,47 as well as ensuring it was a key demand of the Business & Climate Summit in Paris. Equally, the B-Team has twice this year called on political and business leaders to aim for ‘net-zero by 2050’ and to include it in the COP 21 outcome.4
Ingredient 5: Business-as-usual
GACSA was launched at the Ban Ki-moon Climate Summit in September 2014, with Walmart, McDonald’s and Kellogg Company all committing to use ‘climate smart’ food in their supply chains. Yara’s Vice President of Global Initiatives, Strategy and Business Development, Sean de Cleene, says that “2015 and 2016 will be the years where we move from building a global movement to action on the ground.
And the key words are climate smart agriculture, an area where Yara has products and knowledge.”68 The Norwegian fertiliser giant, 40% owned by the Norwegian government and the state pension fund, sees Climate Smart Agriculture as ‘sustainable intensification’ using its synthetic fertilisers, which it claims reduces deforestation.69 On the other hand Syngenta and Monsanto see Climate Smart Agriculture as using genetically modified (GM) seeds tolerant to toxic herbicides (which they conveniently manufacture), on the basis that weeds are suppressed so soils don’t need to be ploughed to control them, thereby keeping CO2 in the soil (scientifically unproven and not exclusive to GM crops).
Culture Economy Nations
*Strategic Assets and Strategic Mistakes: Tactical Moves for 2016 and Planting COG Seeds for the Day After 2016 (Investment Paths Series, Part . It’s so wonderful to have friends who teach you about some great moments in history that could have been pivotal for the world we live today.
*Santa’s quickest route around the world (and other festive brainteasers). Ever wondered how Santa plots his route between houses on Christmas Eve? Or how many gifts you’d receive if your true love followed ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ to the letter?
*Benedict Anderson was a brilliant scholar whose work was animated by a deep commitment to human emancipation. To those of us outside of Southeast Asia, Benedict Anderson is best known as the author of Imagined Communities, the seminal study of nationalism and one of the most popular scholarly books of the second half of twentieth century.