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Fossil fuel representatives outnumber the smallest 10 countries at COP

© Shutterstock / Kendall AndersonPost Thumbnail

As India proposes the phase down of all fossil fuels at COP27, and the IEA has stated that there is no room for new fossil fuels in a net zero 2050 scenario, news that the fossil fuel lobbying is dominating COP27 is a concern.

  • Fossil fuel representatives are double the number of representatives of indigenous peoples.
  • Such representatives could have an outsized impact on decisions made at COP27, when we urgently need to move away from reliance on fossil fuels.
  • The number is up from the 506 lobbyists at Glasgow, highlighting the concentration of fossil fuel interests.

new analysis released by Global Witness together with partners Corporate Accountability and Corporate Europe Observatory has identified at least 636 fossil lobbyists who have been granted access to COP27.

That means that even more fossil fuel lobbyists are attending the talks than in Glasgow last year.  Delegates on the ground calculated that the number outweighs representatives from the ten smallest countries. The Global Witness analysis reports there are twice as many fossil fuel lobbyists as delegates from the official UN constituency for indigenous peoples.

The finding is the result of a rapid analysis of the over 30,000 delegates admitted to the talks carried out by Global Witness using a combination of scraping, machine learning and long hours poring through the data.

The group define fossil fuel lobbyists as people who have links to companies with significant business activities in fossil fuels, or who are attending the talks as part of a trade body representing fossil fuel interests.

Even then, the estimate is likely to be conservative, as the methodology relies on delegates to the talks disclosing their own connections to fossil fuel interests, and many lobbyists may choose to obscure that link.

The research also relies solely on public sources like company websites, news coverage or databases like InfluenceMap’s for connecting delegates to fossil fuel interests. It does not include the many lobbyists for other industries closely tied to fossil fuels or heavily implicated in the climate crisis, like the finance industry, big agribusinesses or petrochemicals industr

We have also not included the many lobbyists for other industries closely tied to fossil fuels or heavily implicated in the climate crisis, like the finance industry, big agribusinesses or petrochemicals industry.

Global Witness calls to ‘Kick Big Polluters Out’

Global Witness, together with its partners on this project, Corporate Accountability and Corporate Europe Observatory, are calling for conflict of interest policies at COPs that would restrict fossil fuel lobbyists’ role, similar to the international ban on tobacco industry lobbyists in public health policy.This call to Kick Big Polluters Out is being supported by more than 450 organisations. Voices can be added to this campaign by signing the petition.

While the analysis identified over 636 fossil fuel lobbyists,  29 countries brought a total of 200 fossil fuel lobbyists as part of their official delegations. More than one in five in Russia’s 150 strong delegation are from the fossil fuel industry.

Canada’s official delegation to the talks included executives from Enbridge, the company behind the controversial Line 3 pipeline that would move 760,000 barrels of oil per day to the United States, much of it from heavily polluting tar sands projects.

In 2021 the analysis showed that at least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists flooded the Glasgow talks. The news, and pressure from civil society activists, put the UN agency behind the talks, the UNFCCC, under pressure to explain the role of fossil fuel lobbyists at the climate talks.

Oil representatives taking part in the talks in country delegations

Patricia Espinosa, then the UN Climate Agency’s executive director claimed that “We do not allow open lobbying or open promotion of oil and gas, of course, that would be against the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the convention.” Questions from Global Witness around how this rule was enforced at COP27 went unanswered by the UNFCCC at the time.

Vicki Hollub, the CEO of US oil and gas producer Oxy, along with 11 colleagues, gained access to the talks through taking part in the official United Arab Emirates delegation, which included at least 70 fossil fuel lobbyists according to Global Witness analysis.

The company was the second highest spending oil and gas lobbyist in the United States in 2021, behind only Koch Industries. Hollub has criticised others for pushing the energy transition “too quickly” saying instead that with carbon capture technology, largely used to pump yet more oil, she can see a way to continue producing oil and gas “for the foreseeable future, I’m talking 2060, 2070, 2080, I’m not talking about ending fossil fuel development in ten or twenty years”.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear in its 2022 Sixth Assessment report that even just using the existing fossil fuel infrastructure would blow through the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C of warming.

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