Briefing Document / Nov. 21, 2013

Open letter calls for rules to protect climate policy-making from corporate influence as civil society walks out of Warsaw conference

Global Witness expresses its support for civil society colleagues who have walked out of the COP 19 Warsaw Climate Conference in protest at lack of progress towards an international deal to curb soaring global greenhouse gas emissions.

The walkout comes after 70 organisations from across global civil society released this letter calling on the United Nations and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to bring in new rules to protect  the global climate talks from the undue influence of the fossil fuel industry.

This year’s talks have taken place in the shadow of this industry and its lobbyists; a “Coal & Climate Summit” has been held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters is plastered all over the venue, and the President (Poland) is beholden to the coal and fracking industry.

If countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs. 

Warsaw, 21st December 2013

Dear UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres,

We are writing to you as a group of civil society organisations, groups and social movements deeply concerned with the fate of the climate. The devastating consequences of super typhoon Yolanda are the latest reminder of the cost of inaction, and the urgency of the task ahead.

Yet the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), hosted this year by the Polish government in Warsaw, has taken unprecedented and damaging steps towards embracing the same corporations that profit from continued emissions while actively lobbying against effective and just climate action. The Warsaw COP has official corporate “partners” which include the fossil fuel industry and major polluters like PGE, Alstom, LOTOS, ArcelorMittal, BMW, General Motors and Emirates Airlines. Along with a large number of corporate-affiliated side events and the exclusive access to negotiators granted to corporate lobby groups during the business-only pre-COP in October, the hosting Polish government’s Ministry of Economy has teamed up with the World Coal Association – a coal industry lobby group – to put on a parallel "International Coal and Climate Summit", falsely presenting coal as a central part of the solution to climate change and development. Added to this, the UNFCCC secretariat has created the appearance of sanctioning the coal lobby's agenda by allowing executive secretary Christiana Figueres to address the coal summit, despite calls from both the youth constituency and from environmental and development groups not to attend. 

At risk are both our climate and the integrity of the UNFCCC as a multilateral process to tackle climate change. Therefore there is an urgent need for rules to govern the relationship between the UNFCCC and the fossil fuel industry, including obligations for COP Presidents. Rules that would ensure the current damaging situation is avoided, by ending the undue access and influence of polluting businesses and industries, recognising that their direct commercial interests are fundamentally and irreconcilably in conflict with the urgent need for an equitable and ambitious climate policy.

The UN Global Compact’s recently released “Guide for Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy” (produced in cooperation with the UNFCCC and others), recognises the damaging effect of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy, but its recommended voluntary guidelines for corporate lobbying around climate are woefully inadequate in light of the planetary emergency. To protect the climate and the UNFCCC, an approach corresponding to the scale of the climate crisis is needed.

Other UN bodies have faced similar challenges in addressing the undue influence of harmful industries and dealt with the situation effectively, such as the UN World Health Organisation (WHO). Article 5.3 of its global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), enshrines in international law the principle that the tobacco industry has no role in public health policy-making, due to the “fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests and public health policy interests” and states that "Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry".

We urge you to look at such examples and take commensurate action to protect climate policy-making from the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry – or companies whose core business model depends on the excessive emission of greenhouse gases – and their attempts to undermine and subvert urgently needed action.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organisations Durban


Alianza para la Conservacion y Desarrollo

Amigos de la Tierra España, Friends of the Earth Spain

Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM)

Asociación Ambientalista de Chiriqui

Attac France

Beyond Copenhagen Collective, India

Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (India People's Science Campaign), India

Biofuelwatch UK/US, Bulgaria

BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)

Carbon Trade Watch

Center for Environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Clean Beach and Development, Ghana

Climate Crisis Coalition of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation

Climate Policy Program - Institute for Policy Studies (USA)

Conseil de la Jeunesse (Belgian French-speaking youth council)

Corporate Accountability International

Corporate Europe Observatory

Earth in Brackets

European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ)

Ecologistas en Acción, Spain


El Comité de Solidaridad con América Latina

Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria


Food & Water Europe

Food & Water Watch

Food Recovery Network

Foundation for Environment and Agriculture, Bulgaria

Friends of the Earth Canada

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI)

Friends of the Earth Scotland

Friends of the Earth United States

Friends of the Siberian Forests (FSF)

Gaia Foundation

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)

Global Witness

Green America


 Friends of the Earth South Africa

Gujarat Forum On CDM, India

HELIO International

International Institute of Climate Action and Theory (iicat) Climate Justice Project

Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique)

La Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)

National Ecological Center of Ukraine


Nature Code, Austria

NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark

Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP)

Ong AFRICANDO, Canary Islands (Spain)

ParyavaranMitra, India

People & Planet, UK

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)

Pick Up America/The Harvest Collective, USA

Red de Accion por los Derechos Ambientales, Chile

Regional Advocacy Center "Life", Ukraine

Regional Centre for Development Cooperation(RCDC), India

SEE Change Net

Soldepaz Pachakuti

South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)



Taiwan Environmental Protection Union

The Corner House, UK

United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)


Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), Ghana

Women for Peace and Ecology

World Development Movement (WDM), UK

World Rainforest Movement (WRM)

Za Zemiata - Friends of the Earth Bulgaria