The first corporate sponsors of this winter’s ‘historic’ UN climate talks (COP21) have been unofficially unveiled: luxury brand Luis Vuitton (LVMH) and Suez Environment, a key member of the French pro-fracking lobby. According to an article by ATTAC’s Maxime Combes, others were initially announced in the press (BMW, Vattenfall and New Holland Agriculture) but later denied by the COP21 organisers.
Only a question of time
Finding out whether COP21 would have corporate sponsors was always a question of when rather than if. In November 2014, the French Government announced that the Senate had cut the public budget, and therefore they would look to the private sector. But there were also many reassurances to civil society groups that the French Presidency of the climate talks would not make the same mistake as two years previously in Warsaw, when some of the biggest polluters – including Big Oil, Gas and Coal – were all able to wrap themselves in the colours of the UN and claim to be in favour of tackling climate change. The full list was promised from French officials at the end of March, but its still not there.
Blue is the new black this winter
So how climate friendly are the announced sponsors, or are they using the chance of UN sponsorship to blue-wash their dirty images?
Suez Environment is a French multinational and the world’s second largest environmental services provider, particularly focused on water. When the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires took back control of its water services from Suez in 2006 with huge popular backing, the French giant launched – and recently won – a court case for €405 million in compensation under the controversial investor-to-state ‘ISDS’ mechanism so common within international trade and investment treaties. A major focus now is on waste-water treatment, particularly from coal mining and fracking, giving it a direct financial interest in the continued extraction of dirty energy. Of note, GDF Suez – heavily involved in coal and fracking – owns more than a third of Suez environment. This may help explain Suez’s membership of the new fracking lobby group, the Centre for Non-conventional Hydrocarbons.
LVMH (Moet Hennessey – Louis Vuitton) is not involved in dirty energy extraction, but rather makes its money from selling extremely expensive luxury items for the uber-rich, slightly at odds with the idea of living equitably on a constrained planet. What’s more, they are well known tax-dodgers, with more than 200 subsiduaries located in tax havens, allowing them to avoid paying their fair share towards the energy transition we need to make if we’re going to tackle climate change. But if climate’s becoming chique, then Louis Vuitton and their elite clientèle can’t miss out on being seen in this season’s UN-tinged blue.
The other sponsors originally listed by Europe1 but later denied by the French Presidency include coal- and nuclear-plant operator Vattenfall (who’s currently suing the German government for phasing out nuclear, and already won a case against Berlin daring to increase efficiency standards of its coal plants), gas-guzzling BMW (who roped in Angela Merkel to lobby against higher car emissions standards) and New Holland Agriculture (involved in ‘climate smart agriculture’, putting farming into the hands of multinationals and failed carbon markets). Even if not the official COP21 sponsors, all three are confirmed as sponsors of the corporate-friendly Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 taking place during COP21 (7-8 December). While not the main event, it has been given the official COP21 seal of approval (a ‘label’ used to endorse all sorts of initiatives), and its website makes the connection unmistakable: http://cop21paris.org.