PRESS RELEASE: Fossil Fuel Industry Sets the Agenda for UNFCCC Executive Secretary

WARSAW, POLAND – Youth condemned UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres’ decision this weekend to choose the fossil fuel industry over young people. This weekend over 300 young people from around the world gathered in Warsaw at the Conference of Youth (COY) to prepare for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP19 Conference that began today.

A usual attendee of COY, Christiana Figueres was invited to speak again. But this year, fossil fuel interests and financial pressures outlined her schedule. When the COY organizers heard that Figueres also planned to deliver a keynote address at the controversial International Coal and Climate Summit, a serious conflict of interest to the goals of the UNFCCC, international youth responded with an open letter stating that she must choose to speak at either the World Coal Association’s summit or the Conference of Youth. Ms. Figueres’ decision to chose coal over future generations underscores a much deeper problem, organizers of COY argue.
According to US youth delegate Adam Greenberg of SustainUS, “The fact that Figueres, who often champions the youth role in climate action, felt compelled to speak at the coal summit in lieu of speaking with youth highlights the real problem — the fossil fuel industry has taken control of the climate negotiation process. At COP19 more than ever before, we’ve seen the indisputable and pervasive influence of the fossil fuel industry.”

These are the first UN climate negotiations to accept corporate sponsorship, and it comes from major fossil fuel companies whose agendas are spreading misinformation. “The fossil fuel industry, specifically the coal industry, is unequivocally incompatible with a sustainable future, the two-degree target for maximum temperature increase set in Copenhagen, and the very mandate of the Framework Convention on Climate Change administered by Ms. Figueres,” Greenberg says.

This year’s International Coal and Climate Summit conflicts with the second week of high-level talks, traditionally the most crucial and delicate phase in the yearly negotiations. The fact that both the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and high-level officials from the coal-supporting Polish government are speaking at the coal summit during this crucial juncture undermines the United Nations process and casts doubt over the priorities of the UNFCCC.

Members of YOUNGO, the youth constituency to the UNFCCC made up of hundreds of non-governmental youth organizations from around the world, also point to the absurdity of engaging with an industry whose goals and incentives are fundamentally opposed to those of the UNFCCC. The youth believe that the fossil fuel industry’s involvement in a climate conference is counterintuitive and represents a roadblock to the deal the world needs.

According to Sierra Student Coalition delegate Ashok Chandwaney, “The Secretary’s decision to engage with the coal industry ignores the reality that by attending their summit as a keynote speaker, she is legitimizing their presence and succumbing to their far-reaching influence on the UNFCCC process. The coal industry devotes tremendous resources to impeding emissions mitigation and the transition to a global clean energy economy. The Executive Secretary should not condone Big Coal’s heavy-handed presence at any time.”

“If the head of the World Health Organization were a keynote speaker at a global tobacco summit, the world would be outraged — and rightfully so,” says youth delegate Yunting Hong of Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition.Data from the latest IPCC report confirms that UNFCCC mechanisms have thus far been unable to meet the emissions reductions targets needed to avoid two degrees Celsius temperature change by 2100.Young people maintain that Ms. Figueres’ decision to attend the coal summit highlights the crucial yet unspoken cause of the UNFCCC’s lack of real progress. “If the UNFCCC process is to be truly productive,” Hong maintains, “It can no longer be beholden in any way to the fossil fuel industry.”

Monday 11 November 2013
Power Shift CEE Coordinators


Collin Rees // // +48 773 688 202

Louisa Casson // // +48 729 410 236

An earlier version of this press release stated that IPIECA is a UNFCCC donor, and that it donated to climate skeptic groups. This is not correct. IPIECA members such as Exxon Mobil (which has given $22 million to climate-sceptic groups between 1998 and 2011), British Petroleum, Shell, and Chevron which donate to climate skeptic groups. The IPIECA is not a sponsor of the UNFCCC, but associated with sponsors such as Lotos, which provided thousands of bags for COP attendees.

[We regret any confusion caused]