Bangkok — Protesters drenched by an October downpour gathered outside Bangkok’s United Nations Conference Center recently, shouting through bullhorns and denouncing countries for the weak commitments they’ve shown in negotiating a treaty to curb greenhouse gases. Inside, the atmosphere was more businesslike: professionals lingering around coffee bars, smiling at familiar faces, and grasping hands in recognition. Later, they would meet behind closed doors in a conclave dominated by representatives of the world’s top energy companies.
Welcome to the world of “BINGOs” — Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations that have long played a key role in shaping the global debate on climate change. Industry groups are operating under United Nations rules that exclude individual corporations from attending the climate summit, instead requiring businesses to join associations to represent them. The Bangkok talks were one of several sessions leading up to the formal negotiations, starting in Copenhagen on Dec. 7, aimed at producing a new global treaty limiting carbon emissions.
Here at the conference center, several dozen BINGO executives gathered to debrief each other on such high-stakes matters as global targets for emissions reduction, the number of carbon offsets, and timetables for implementation. But while the agenda of the BINGOs on climate change seems clear, their strategy is harder to discern. And the results of their efforts are often intangible. In other words, this is not lobbying as it is commonly understood. “What we do here is we loiter,” says John Scowcroft of the European Union of the Electricity Industry. “It’s loitering with intent.”