TckTckTck & The Copenhagen Communiqué: A Right Royal Greenwash

Corporate Communique

(This is a guest post by David McKay, environmental activist and writer)

The Greenwash presses have been running over time recently with the Copenhagen climate talks ever present in the news. Apart from the greenwash provided by the conference itself to its participants, companies have been keen to use the opportunity to claim that they, too, want to see a ‘good deal for the climate’. Apart from the very obvious nature of Hopenhagens attempt, as has been shown in previous posts on this blog, there have been some less obvious campaigns. One that caught my eye recently is ‘The Copenhagen Communiqué’, which has recently appeared as a stamp in the corner of many companies newspaper adverts and websites. Given that these companies included such luminaries as EDF energy, this stamp needed some investigation.

The Copenhagen Communiqué is a project of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders’ Group on Climate Change, a group of ‘business leaders’ the prince has got together who supposedly all care a lot about climate change, along with The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. They’ve also issued a communiqué for both the Bali and Poznan conferences, so are quite an established group. For many established readers of the Unsuitablog, the concept of business leaders issuing advice on climate change might already raise a few eyebrows, especially as the many signatories include BAA, Shell, BP, Asda, Rio Tinto, Unilever, Adidas, Statoil, Nestle, Coca Cola… just about all the corporations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of consumerism and industrial civilisation all in one list. Here’s what they say:

This communiqué is being issued by the business leaders of over 500 global companies. It calls for an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crises facing the world today.

Earlier this year, the world’s twenty largest economies (G20) came together and agreed an unprecedented, coordinated response to the global economic downturn. At the London Summit, the leaders of the G20 pledged to do “whatever is necessary” to restore confidence and growth to the economic system.

World leaders now need to demonstrate the same level of coordination and resolve to address climate change. Economic development will not be sustained in the longer term unless the climate is stabilised. It is critical that we exit this recession in a way that lays the foundation for low-carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high-carbon future.

Within the first few paragraphs the intention of the communiqué is already clear – that their primary goal is not to protect the victims of climate change, and the earth’s biosphere but to protect their prosperity and profits. Some might argue that as long as this helps stop climate change that this isn’t a problem, but will these corporations really support the action necessary to combat climate change, or just appear as such and take advantage?

…it will create the conditions for transformational change in our global economy and deliver the economic signals that companies need if they are to invest billions of dollars in low carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure.

Note how these ‘leaders’ are simply asking the government to make it profitable for them to invest in these new technologies, not taking the initiative themselves. Only if the taxpayer can guarantee them profits will they do anything. But why do they care so much about these low-carbon technologies if the old dirty ones continue to be profitable?

Action at the sector level will help accelerate the large-scale deployment of clean technologies through robust funding solutions, technological transfer and capacity building. The least developed economies need additional assistance including increased and adequate financing, and expanded cooperation to help them adapt to and join the new low-carbon economy.

Here it becomes clearer. The corporations will create the new technologies if the government subsidises them, then they will sell them to the poorer nations in order for them to meet their targets, and those poorer nations will use money from western governments in order to purchase these technologies, money which no doubt they will end up paying back at a later date.

Measures to deliver a robust global greenhouse gas emissions market…

They also ask for carbon markets, which corporations could then use carbon markets as they have done with the European trading scheme, lobbying and persuading governments to issue too many permits, resulting in low carbon prices and effecting their operations very little.

Measures will be needed; to deliver a step-change in energy efficiency, to promote the rapid development, demonstration and wide deployment of low-carbon technologies and also to stimulate new markets for low-carbon goods and services. These measures will include ambitious performance and efficiency standards, bold public procurement commitments, and the development of incentives. Robust intellectual property protection as well as other enabling policies are key.

Communique Signatures

It is clear what these corporations are seeing in this text is not so much a bold statement on how to prevent dangerous climate change, but how to develop themselves new markets using taxpayer money and subsidies from government, and increase the dependence of poor nations upon them. However, this aim is neatly covered up with environmental rhetoric, with noble-sounding statements on limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, helping poorer nations adapt and limiting deforestation elsewhere in the text. But these are being used to mask the real mission behind these companies – to make money from climate change.

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