COP28

Fossil fuel lobbyists have received more passes to COP28 than all the delegates from the ten most climate vulnerable nations combined. Photo: COP28/ Christopher Edralin/UNFCCC/Flickr

Record number of fossil fuel lobbyists granted access to COP28 

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 EU brought employees of BP, ENI and ExxonMobil

At least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists have been granted access to the COP28 summit in Dubai, signalling an unprecedented presence at crucial climate talks from representatives of some of the world’s biggest polluters. This is nearly four times more than were granted access last year. 

The new analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition said that this uptick coincided with a COP where fossil fuels and their phaseout are a focal point. It also elevated the growing call from Global South countries, public officials, UN constituencies, and wider civil society to eject polluters from talks. 

The analysis said that significantly more fossil lobbyists have been granted access to COP28 than almost every country delegation. The 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists are only outnumbered by the 3,081 people brought by Brazil (which is expected to host COP30), and the UAE, which as COP28 host brought 4,409 people.

Country delegations dwarf in comparison to fossil fuel lobby

Upon analysing the provisional list of participants at COP28, the analysis found that fossil fuel lobbyists have received more passes to COP28 than all the delegates from the ten most climate vulnerable nations combined (1,509), underscoring how industry presence is dwarfing that of those on the frontlines of the crisis.

Moreover, a vast number of fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the COP as part of a trade association. Nine out of the ten 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.

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, there are more than seven times the number of fossil fuel lobbyists permitted entry to the Dubai talks than official indigenous representatives.

From India, companies like the Adani Group, Tata Steel Ltd,  JSW Steel Ltd, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India Ltd, Mahindra, Apollo, Bayer, L&T, Ashok Leyland, etc. are present to name a few.  

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 brought employees of BP, ENI and ExxonMobil.

Responding to the findings, Alexia Leclercq, Start:Empowerment, said, “Do you really think Shell or Chevron or ExxonMobil are sending lobbyists to passively observe these talks? To advance climate solutions for the benefit of communities whose air and water they pollute? To put people and the planet over profit and their greedy dollars? 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.”

A growing and alarming trend  

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 report also clarified that corporate access and lobbying at UN climate talks isn’t limited to the fossil fuel industry. Other polluting industries deeply implicated in the climate crisis such as finance, agribusiness, and transportation are also present, although they are not included in this analysis.

The researchers at KBPO said that their estimate is likely to be conservative as they only counted delegates who openly disclosed their connections to fossil fuel interests, and not those who access the talks using a different professional affiliation. KBPO also relied solely on public sources like company websites, news coverage or databases like InfluenceMap’s to connect delegates to fossil fuel interests.

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