Record 2,456 Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Dominate COP28 Climate Talks to Advance Their Agenda

...Big polluters like Shell, TotalEnergies, BP, ExxonMobil, Equinor, others indicted

By Edu Abade

No fewer than 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists have been deployed to the COP28 summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), signaling an unprecedented representation of some of the world’s biggest polluters at what should have been crucial climate talks.

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A new analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition revealed that in a year when global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions exceeded all previous records, there has been an explosion of fossil fuel lobbyists heading to United Nations (UN) climate summit, with nearly four times over and above the number of lobbyists who were granted access last year.

The development coincides with a COP where fossil fuels and their phase out are a focal point, while also elevating the growing call from Global South countries, public officials, UN constituencies and wider civil society to eject polluters from the climate discussions.

According the analysis, there are significantly more fossil lobbyists granted access to COP28 than almost every country delegation, adding that the 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists are only outnumbered by the 3,081 participants brought by Brazil (expected to host COP30) and the UAE, which as host of COP28 brought 4,409 participants.

The KBPO, which analysed the provisional list of participants at COP28 line-by-line in the most in-depth study into the fossil fuel industry’s presence at any talks to date found that fossil fuel lobbyists have received more passes to COP28 than all the delegates from the 10 most climate vulnerable nations combined (1609), a development that underscores how industry presence is dwarfing that of those on the frontlines of the crisis.

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“A vast number of fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the COP28 as part of a trade association. Nine of the 10 biggest of these groups came from the Global North. The largest was the Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), who brought 116 people including representatives from Big Polluters- Shell, TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor.

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“In a further sign that COP28 is being used by Big Polluters as an opportunity to advance a fossil-fuelled agenda at the expense of frontline communities, exceeded the number of fossil fuel lobbyists deployed to the Dubai talks than official indigenous representatives (316) by over seven times.

“France brought fossil fuel giants such as TotalEnergies and EDF as part of its country delegation, Italy brought a team of ENI representatives, and the European Union (EU) brought employees of BP, ENI and ExxonMobil,” the coalition stated.

Responding to the findings, Co-Founder of Start:Empowerment, Alexia Leclercq said: “Do you really think Shell or Chevron or ExxonMobil are sending lobbyists to passively observe the talks? Are they advancing climate solutions for the benefit of communities whose air and water they pollute or trying to put people and the planet over profit and their dollars?

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“Big Polluters’ poisonous presence has bogged us down for years, keeping us from advancing the pathways needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They are the reason COP28 is clouded in a fog of climate denial, not climate reality.”

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Caroline Muturi from IBON Africa said: “These findings tell us that the dynamics within these spaces remain fundamentally colonial. It comes as no surprise that the majority of the corporations influencing these talks are from the Global North.

“In years past COPs have become an avenue for many companies to greenwash their polluting businesses and foist dangerous distractions from real climate action. This hinders the meaningful participation of African communities and the rest of the Global South in shaping climate policies that will primarily affect them.”

Hwei Mian Lim of Women and Gender Constituency said: “If governments had required oil and gas groups to decarbonise from the outset in line with what science says is needed to limit climate change’s worse impacts, we would not be in our current state of all-out emergency.

“We are where we are because of years of denial, delay and false solutions from the very groups that are responsible for the problem.”

Corporate access and lobbying at UN climate talks isn’t limited to the fossil fuel industry. Although not included in this analysis, other polluting industries implicated in the climate crisis including finance, agribusiness and transportation are also well represented at COP28.

“Our estimate is likely to be conservative. KBPO only counts delegates who openly disclose their connections to fossil fuel interests and not those who access the talks using different professional affiliations. KBPO also relied solely on public sources like company websites, news coverage or databases like InfluenceMap’s to connect delegates to fossil fuel interests.

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“This year for the first time, people attending COP28 were required to disclose who they represent, revealing many lobbyists who would likely have attended previous COPs incognito, thanks to sustained pressure from civil society groups.

Last year, KBPO’s analysis showed that at least 636 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, up from 503 the year before that in Glasgow. And recent findings from KBPO have also found that fossil fuel lobbyists have attended COPs at least 7200 times over the last two decades.

The Kick Big Polluters Out campaign is calling on the UN climate body and governments to continue on the road towards a robust Accountability Framework to address the problem at its root, as with the tobacco industry at the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco treaty talks.

Programmes Manager at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Ogunlade Olamide Martins said: “To share seats with the Big Polluters in climate change conversations is to dine with the devil. This unholy matrimony will only endorse “conflict of interest” and further facilitate the silence of honest agitation. COP’s conclusions must be independent of industries’ parasitic influences and must only address the concerns of the vulnerable masses.”

The top 10 most climate vulnerable nations with delegations at COP28 are: Somalia (366), Chad (554), Niger (135), Guinea-Bissau (43), Micronesia (26), Tonga (79), Eritrea (7), Liberia (197), Solomon Islands (56) and Mali (146).

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600,

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