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U.N. Defends Banning Three Youth Activists While Allowing Fossil Fuel Firms to Sponsor Climate Talks

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During a press conference, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman questioned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about whether he would consider banning fossil fuel industry lobbyists from U.N. climate meetings in the same way the World Health Organization has banned tobacco lobbyists from meetings on tobacco regulation. Ban responded: “We need to engage all areas of industry and society in the transition to a low-carbon future, including industries that are presently associated with high greenhouse gas emissions.” Goodman also asked Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, whether she would allow three youth activists who protested the influence of corporate lobbyists to be re-admitted to the this year's climate summit after they were stripped of their badges.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from the climate summit here in Warsaw, Poland. Poland, the country of Copernicus, of Marie Curie, of Frédéric Chopin. In fact, we flew into Frédéric Chopin Airport. I’m Amy Goodman.

During Tuesday’s Democracy Now! , we brought you the story of Clémence Hutin, a 23-year-old climate activist from Paris who was one of three young people kicked out of the climate summit talks with two other activists who had expressed solidarity with the people of the Philippines. They were stripped of their badges when they held up a banner, standing with Yeb Saño, the Philippine chief climate negotiator. The banner read, “2012, Bopha, 1,067; 2013, Haiyan, 10,000-plus? How many more have to die?” the banner asked, talking about the typhoons in the Philippines. Their action occurred moments after the Philippines lead climate negotiator, Naderev “Yeb” Saño delivered an emotional speech to delegates here at the U.N. climate summit.

After yesterday’s show, I raised the issue during a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

AMY GOODMAN: For Ms. Figueres, you’ve banned three young NGO members for standing with chief Philippine climate negotiator Saño after his address the opening day of the conference talking about the typhoon, yet there are sign—they held up a banner remembering the dead from Typhoon Haiyan. Yet there are signs and banners of corporate logos everywhere here. The young people say you’re sending a message that business is welcome here and civil society isn’t. Commissioner Saño and others have asked you to lift the ban. Will you consider that?

And this is for Dr. Ban: The World Health Organization has a ban on tobacco industry lobbying on FCTC delegates, delegates around tobacco control. Would you consider a similar ban on the fossil fuel industry lobbying commissioners at these meetings? First, to Ms. Figueres.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: Thank you. The three concerned individuals were banned certainly not for the content of the banners that they put up. The United Nations stands with all delegates who stood in ovation to show their concern and their empathy with the tragedy in the Philippines. These three individuals have been debadged because they did not obey the rules of action, demonstration within U.N. territory, which all organizations, when they are invited to the U.N., they sign and they perfectly well know that all demonstrations are, A, very welcome here, as long as the U.N. security knows ahead of time what they’re going to do. I don’t have the latest number, but as of two days ago, we had had 17 demonstrations, many of them in support of the Philippines, all of which were authorized, all of which took place in a peaceful and planned way. And I very much encourage all observers to come to the United Nations both with their hearts and with their heads. Thank you.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: For your question, we need to engage all areas of industry and society in the transition to a low-carbon future, including industries that are presently associated with high greenhouse gas emissions related to fossil fuel. They, too, will have to make green and sustainable investment decisions that will keep them in business, and thus within the bounds of two degrees Celsius, as recommended by IPCC. We must work together, so that everyone can be a part of solution.

AMY GOODMAN: That was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC, at a press conference on Wednesday.

On Monday, I spoke with Pascoe Sabido from the Corporate Europe Observatory, or CEO, which released “The COP 19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying.” I asked him how the fossil fuel sponsors here compare to the World Health Organization in dealing with tobacco lobbying.

PASCOE SABIDO: At the moment there’s no guidelines around lobbying regarding, you know, what—let’s be honest, the interests of the fossil fuel companies, of the fossil fuel industry, their commercial interests are to keep on polluting, keep putting emissions into the atmosphere. That’s their business model. Those interests are fundamentally in conflict with those of the public interest, and those are the interests that we should be discussing here in these climate talks. We need ambitious, equitable action on climate change if we’re really going to tackle something that—Philippines has recently showed us such, you know, devastating impacts. And so, their interest’s incompatible with the public interest and the interests of climate—of tackling climate change, so we need guidelines.

And the WHO, actually incredibly forward-thinking, has introduced strict firewalls between lobbyists and public health officials, because they accept that the interest of the tobacco industry is fundamentally opposed to public health interests. And so if that’s the case, then it’s up to governments to do something about it. Our governments are supposed to be representing the public and our interests as the public, so it’s really up to them to impose and to ensure that there is protection for our public health officials and, in this case, for our climate change policy offices, our governments, who are trying to really reach the deal we need to see here.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Pascoe Sabido from the Corporate Europe Observatory, or CEO.

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