COP 27: Weighty Presence of Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Raises Alarm

Protesters from the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development rallying on Energy Day, November 15, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, where COP27, the annual global climate conference, is taking place / credit: Twitter / AsianPeoplesMvt
Protesters from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development rallying on Energy Day, November 15, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, where COP27, the annual global climate conference, is taking place / credit: Twitter / AsianPeoplesMvt

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Peoples Dispatch.

At the COP 27 climate summit, an explosion of fossil fuel lobbyists was observed with over 600 such delegates present at the venue in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. With this number of registered delegates, this year’s COP has seen a rise of 25 percent among fossil fuel lobbyists compared to last year.

Notably, the fossil fuel lobbyists outnumbered any single community that has been at the frontline of populations affected by the climate crisis.

Three organizations, namely, Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Global Witness (GW), have analyzed the provisional list of attendees to the UN event. The finding reveals the scale at which the corporate actors directly linked to fossil fuel burning enjoy access to the critical climate summit of COP 27. Notably, the lobbyists are affiliated with some of the world’s largest polluting oil and gas companies.

There were 503 such lobbyists at the Glasgow summit of last year, and then also, this figure outnumbered the delegation from any single country. This year in Egypt, the only country that outnumbers the number of lobbyists, who are linked with the largest polluting corporates, is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 1,070 registered delegates. The UAE will host COP 28 next year.

An activist group named ‘Kick Big Polluters Out’ said in a statement, “The influence of fossil fuel lobbyists is greater than frontline countries and communities. Delegations from African countries and Indigenous communities are dwarfed by representatives of corporate interests directly at odds with the level of systemic change needed to slow the climate crisis.” They added that fossil fuel lobbyists were working openly through several country delegations.

Researchers belonging to Global Witness, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Corporate Accountability counted the number of registered individuals who are directly affiliated with fossil fuel giants like Shell, Chevron and BP (British Petroleum) or representing the fossil fuel industry as members of delegations that act on behalf of these industries. Some of the salient points that the analysis found are the following:

As many as 636 fossil fuel lobbyists are registered at COP 27; there are more fossil fuel lobbyists registered than delegations from Africa, and this is despite it being the ‘African COP’ this year; 29 countries have fossil fuel lobbyists within their national delegates; last but most important is that there are more lobbyists than representatives of the 10 countries that are most impacted by climate change, including Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The researchers also mentioned that activists from the Global South (developing countries) along with Indigenous communities that are in the most vulnerable conditions due to climate crisis have been kept at bay from attending the summit by high costs, challenges in getting visas and repressive actions implemented by the hosting country.

Civil society groups have raised apprehensions that with the increasing presence of fossil fuel lobbyists, the negotiations may get stymied, that too at a crucial time when the efforts of keeping the global temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius should take center stage.

It’s worth mentioning that many environmental groups that work on the transition away from fossil fuel argue that including private players in the negotiations could be beneficial. However, the sheer size of the lobbyists at the negotiations can outweigh the benefits of their inclusion. Thus, the fear that their presence can actually slow the negotiations rather than limit their industries.

“The explosion in the number of industry delegates attending the negotiations reinforces the conviction of the climate justice community that the industry views the COP as a carnival of sorts, and not a space to address the ongoing and imminent climate crisis,” commented Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo, the non-profit organization working to protect the environment and sustainable development.

In addition, a coalition of civil society groups recently made a submission to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the wing that supervises COP summits, saying, “ Climate action would continue to fail to meaningfully address the climate crisis as long as polluting interests are granted unmitigated access to policymaking processes and are allowed to unduly influence and weaken the critical work of the UNFCCC.”