Can a “Firewall Strategy” Keep Big Energy Out of Climate Talks?

Kicking the polluters out of the negotiations may sound like wishful thinking. But there is a precedent: the global effort to regulate the tobacco industry.

When more than 120 heads of state meet next week to discuss how to “galvanize and catalyze climate action,” they’ll be taking a break for a “private sector luncheon” with guests like Royal Dutch Shell and the Norwegian oil company Statoil.

It won’t be the first time in the negotiations that big oil has made its voice heard. At the 2013 U.N. climate conference in Warsaw, thousands of lobbyists roamed the halls. And three years earlier, when the conference was in Cancun, representatives from Royal Dutch Shell attended as a part of the official Nigerian delegation.

Many observers believe the presence of these industries at the talks has helped to stall meaningful action.

“As long as industries like big oil and big coal, whose profits depend on the failure of the talks, are calling the shots,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive director of the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, “these talks are going nowhere.”

But what if these industries weren’t allowed to attend?

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