‘Would you trust the fox to guard the henhouse?’

I definitely would not.

Likewise, how are we supposed to trust the bona fide involvement of fossil fuel industries in climate change negotiations? There is more to it than just a matter of conflict of interest. High economic and political stakes are involved throughout, through intensive lobbies and scaremongering.

Oil Change International (OCI) is an organization that campaigns on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and aims to facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy. According to one of its report, ‘if all the existing fuel were to be burned, projects currently operating or under construction could be expected to release 942 Gt (gigatonnes) of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)’. On a natural scale, a blue whale, the largest living animal weighs around 180-200 metric tons. 1 Gigatonne is equal to 1,000,000,000 metric tons. I will let you do the Maths.

This would prompt the CO2 level upwards and eventually change the global temperature well above 2 degrees Celsius. Whereas the deal at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), last year, was to keep the global temperature well below 2˚C and drive efforts to prevent temperature from increasing even further to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

Fossil fuel industries are well known to sponsor events pertaining to climate change negotiations. They then use the platform for greenwashing. Greenwashing is a term coined to explicit the deceptive use of green marketing. Therefore, it creates a perception that the organization’s products, their goals and their policies are environmentally friendly.

For instance, during the Paris Summit last year, many fossil fuel industries lobbied on their willingness to be part and parcel of those saving the world. Shell and Chevron even hosted events and one of them featured UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres, who has been recently nominated for the post of UN Secretary General.

Oscar Wilde once said that ‘irony is wasted on the stupid’. Here, the situation is stupid. Why? Because we expect polluters to pay and not to participate in the making of policies concerning climate change. Why should they pay their right to participate? When it is about conflict of interest: investing millions of dollars to benefit from billions of dollars. It is also about the influence of perception and a matter of herd poisoning.

It is a matter of disrespect towards green activists whose only vision is to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. Whereas polluters’ only aims are in profit-making business.

Using irony in this situation would be futile. However, a major step was taken in resolving the conflict of interest issue. Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) states that “Parties of the Convention should refuse to treat tobacco corporations as ‘stakeholders’ in public health policy”. Moreover, no investment or partnership should be made between the two parties.

Even if there are massive contributions or political influences involved, tobacco industries have been kicked out from the FCTCs. And it is a big win.

It makes us wonder why it should be different for fossil fuel industries. People do not spit in the plate that they eat from. So why are we willingly poisoning our environment by allowing fossil fuel industries in climate change conventions?

The threat is more than real and deadly. The government should no longer be intimidated by fossil fuel industries. Maybe we can start by stopping the funding of Presidential candidates or political campaigns. And then start investing in renewable energies for a safer future.

We should more than ever take a stand on that. Our planet is facing a crisis, its health and that of humanity are at stake. For most people, it would mean loss of lives. For others, it would mean losing their homes and cultures and eventually their countries. Our planet is far from being a commodity. It is the home for millions of species, including one of the most deadly: humans.

It all comes down to what kind of environment you would want your generations to be brought up in. If you wish to hand over a sane planet to the next generations, the change should happen now. I already took a stand on this issue. Will you too?