Santander forced to distance itself from climate denial conference

| 10th September 2018


Image Credit: Money Bright/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Santander has been forced to distance itself from a climate science denial conference after its logo was published on the event’s website without the bank’s knowledge, writes CHLOE FARAND

Santander is not a sponsor of this conference.

Santander has been forced to distance itself from a climate science denial conference after its logo was published on the event’s website without the bank’s knowledge.

The bank, which is one of the world’s biggest, told DeSmog UK it was not a sponsor of the climate science denial conference taking place in Porto, Portugal, at the end of this week.

However, Santander admitted giving money to the University of Porto, where the conference is being held, to “support investigation and research” but added that it did not oversee how the money was spent.

Official position

The conference, called “Basic science of a changing climate: How processes in the sun, atmosphere and ocean affect weather and climate” says it is “open to different opinions and interpretations of changing climate”.

Held at the University of Porto’s Faculty of Humanities, the conference has been organised by Maria Assunção Araújo, a professor at the geography department, who is due to address the conference on sea level rise in Portugal and ice retreat in Greenland.

Speakers include prominent climate science deniers Piers CorbynPhilip FosterChristopher EssexNils-Axel Mörner and Christopher Monckton, who will give the two-day conference closing speech before participants are invited to take part in a “cheese and port mingle”.

The conference also includes a session for students to ask speakers questions. Santander’s logo is featured on the conference’s website, alongside the University of Porto’s logo.

A spokesman for the Univeristy of Porto told DeSmog UK that the conference was not organised by the university despite being held on its premises and that views expressed at the conference “do not refelect the official position of the University of Porto about the subject”. 

Not aware

He added that the conference had been organised at the initiative of one of the faculty's professors who applied to a programme sponsored by Santander aimed at supporting international events being held at the university. 

The spokesman said the programme “demands that such events exhibit the source of funding, which explains the presence of the Santander logo on the website”.

“It is our conviction that the universities should be a space of open debate and discussion, where the presentation of conflicting ideas and perspectives should be valued.

"We also believe that censorship of opinions — even the ones that we do not agree with — should not be part of the activities of any university and it is in this context that the University of Porto will host this conference,” he said, adding that this “does not conflict with the university's commitment to figt against climate change”. 

In an email to DeSmog UK, Santander said it supported the University of Porto as part of its universities programme but that it was not aware that its logo had been used on the conference’s website.

Protect the environment

“Santander is not a sponsor of this conference,” a spokeswoman told DeSmog UK. “Santander has always and continues to do all it can to support sustainable growth and combat the impact of climate change, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges we face.”

She added that the money Santander gave the university could be used in any way the university saw fit.

“We do not instruct Porto University how to use funds it receives from Santander. It can use funding resources to support investigation and research at their sole discretion and decision, to respect the university's academic independence,” she said.

In its climate change policy, Banco Santander — the parent company of the Santander group — states that “climate change and resource scarcity are two of the biggest challenges faced by society”.

It adds that the group’s efforts to protect the environment were based on the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now re-branded as the UN Climate Change.

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