The main COP26 youth conference has abandoned plans to accept sponsorship money from a firm with links to the oil industry and the construction of Guantanamo Bay.
In a statement, COY16 said it and Aker Horizons had “mutually agreed to end the sponsorship” to protect the “long term efforts of our event and the Youth Climate Movement globally”. The sponsorship deal was reported by The Ferret on 22 September.
Aker Horizons is the clean energy investment arm of Aker ASA, a Norwegian holding company with investments in the oil and gas sector. Its portfolio includes Aker’s carbon capture and storage and hydrogen businesses.
Aker ASA also owns Aker Solutions, which was identified as “an accessory to torture and other human rights abuses” by Amnesty International in 2007 for its role in building and maintaining the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
As reported by The Ferret, the youth conference came under fire for accepting the sponsorship, which environmentalists condemned for allowing Aker to “rehabilitate its image”.
A spokesperson for Aker Horizons said it and COY16 ended the partnership because it was important that a “strong and united youth movement travels to Glasgow” for COP26. The company would continue to “work toward realising industrial projects to generate renewable energy and cut emissions”, they said.
Environmental groups welcomed the decision by the COY16 organisers. It prevented “false solutions promoters” such as Aker from using the conference as a “youthwashing and greenwashing” exercise, they argued.
COY16, which stands for the 16th Conference of Youth, will be held at the University of Strathclyde between 28 and 31 of October. It is being organised by YOUNGO, the youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The event is used as a space to prepare young people for future participation in COP summits, and to “directly forward the official youth position in the UN climate negotiations”.
As reported by The Ferret last month, activist groups, including Fridays for Future Scotland, had threatened to pull out of the event if Aker Horizons remained a sponsor. They cited the company’s investments in carbon capture and storage, which they say is used by the fossil fuel industry “as an excuse to continue emissions”, as part of the reason for this.
Aker Horizons’ parent company, Aker ASA, also part-owns Aker BP – an oil exploration and production company which is active on the Norwegian continental shelf.
Meanwhile, Aker Solutions was involved in the construction and maintenance of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, which housed suspected terrorists captured by the US in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also contributed to the “water and electricity supply for the cells” at the site.
Human rights organisations have documented violations of international law which have taken place at the camp, including prisoners being held indefinitely, torture, inhumane conditions and conducting unfair trials.
Eilidh Robb, an organiser at campaign group Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, said the decision by the COY16 organisers “helps remove the social license” from companies like Aker, leaving space for “genuine solutions to the climate crisis” to be discussed at the event.
“False solution promoters like Aker Horizons and so many others are working their way into the mainstream by greenwashing and youthwashing to try and legitimise their claims,” she added
“As companies scramble to use the moment of COP26 to make a name for themselves, it’s important to remember that the power must lie with the people, not profit driven industries and big polluters.”
A spokesperson for Aker Horizons said: “After the partnership was announced, the affiliation with other Aker companies was questioned on social media and among some members of the COY network.
“It is important for both parties that a strong and unified youth movement travels to Glasgow in a month’s time. We and COY16 agreed to end the partnership, and Aker Horizons continues to work toward realizing industrial projects to generate renewable energy and cut emissions.
“We look forward to traveling with partners such as environmental NGO Bellona to COP 26, as world leaders gather to take further steps on the road to achieving the Paris goals.”
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