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Fossil fuel firms forcing countries to compensate them, Mary Robinson says | Fossil fuels


Fossil fuel companies are pushing governments to compensate them for lost profits in the transition to a low-carbon global economy and destroying the world’s ability to resist their harmful activitieswarned former senior UN officials.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who was a two-time UN climate envoy, said she was “outraged” by the activities of fossil fuel companies, including forcing governments to enter into “investment treaties” which reward them with billions in compensation when countries reduce their dependence on oil, gas and coal.

“It’s worth looking at these investment contracts, there are a lot of them – 2,000 of different types,” Robinson said. “[Under their terms], if countries are doing the right thing on climate, they should compensate fossil fuel companies. And they compensate to the tune of $62 billion (£49 billion) over a five-year period. This is another one of those hidden subsidies. I was outraged.”

Several countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain, have done so objected to the Energy Charter Treaty, under which the EU and other countries had to cooperate in energy production. But many other such treaties are still in force, according to the OECD.

Robinson also warned that fossil fuel lobbyists had managed to seriously weaken the expected deal on plastic waste which are catastrophically polluting the oceans and have increasingly hampered the UN’s annual climate talks.

“We’ve seen their role in Cops, we’ve seen it for a few years now, and it’s getting stronger. That’s the problem, that’s progression,” she warned. Last month’s deal on plastics was “watered down”, she said, as were plans for a global resolution to phase out fossil fuels at last year’s summit in Dubai.

“It’s very clear that there was a lot of pressure in Dubai before we got the text that we got,” she said. In the end result, Cop28 in Dubai did not require complete elimination, but a weaker resolution, to a “fossil fuel transition”, which it is the first time that all countries have entered into such an agreement.

“I was grateful that it was progress — it wasn’t as much as we wanted, but at least it was progress,” said Robinson, who now chairs the Elders Group of former world leaders. “It seems a reality that we have to make the case [for tackling the climate crisis] in the context of strong lobbying by interest groups against the progress we need.”

She called for more transparency in UN lobbying and government meetings.

Ban Ki-moon, who led the United Nations from 2007 to 2016 and is now vice-chairman of the Elders, also urged the world’s political leaders to step up as more than half the world’s population goes to the polls in crucial elections this year.

Ban warned that the climate crisis is intensifying faster than expected and governments must redouble their efforts to cope. He called for investment of at least £1.2 trillion in helping developing countries make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

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“Climate change is now approaching much, much faster than we might have thought. No time to waste. As a former Secretary General, I believe that if there is a strong political will, we can mobilize all this money,” he said.

The US and China are among his biggest concerns, he said. “A very important presidential election will be held in the USA. I am worried about who will be elected,” he said. “President Trump was elected [in 2016]. What happened? He withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. So there was a big vacancy for four years when it comes to the US.

Talk of friction between the US and China is also “very worrying”, he added. Relations between the superpowers have been strained as China has been accused of deliberately overproducing key commodities, as renewable energy componentsto put US and EU companies out of business.

“When it comes to the global climate change agenda, they need to cooperate. This kind of global, very dangerous agenda should not be affected by a political dispute between the two countries,” Ban said.

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