COP26: Fossil fuel industry has biggest delegation at climate talks – study

More than 500 lobbyists from some of the largest oil and gas companies have been given access to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, new analysis has found.

COP26 venue. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Researchers counted the number of individuals either affiliated with fossil fuel corporations, such as Shell, Gazprom or Exxon, or attending as members of delegations acting for the fossil fuel industry.

The study, by Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory, Glasgow Calls Out Polluters and Global Witness, found

  • If the fossil fuel lobby were a country delegation at COP26 it would be the largest, with 503 delegates
  • This would be double the size of the UK delegation and more than twenty individuals bigger than Brazil, the largest country delegation
  • More than 100 fossil fuel companies are represented at COP26
  • 30 fossil fuel trade associations and membership organisations are also present
  • Fossil fuel lobbyists are about double the official number from the indigenous constituency at COP26

The researchers also found that the fossil fuel lobby was larger than the combined total of the eight delegations from countries worst affected by climate change in the last two decades: Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan.

The analysis also showed that 27 official country delegations, including Canada, Kuwait, Russia and Brazil, registered fossil fuel lobbyists.

Yesterday the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 9UNFCCC), the COP26 organisers was accused of violating its charter because it had “forged an intimate partnership with corporations”.

COP26 has been criticised in the past week as the most excluding of the climate talks. People from countries in the climate front line have complained about lack of access because of issues such as travel restrictions and lack of Covid-19 vaccines.

Murray Worthy, Gas Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said:

“With the world quickly running out of time to avert climate disaster, this COP absolutely must be a success. The case for meaningful global action must not be diverted by a festival of polluters and their mouthpieces, who have no interest in seeing the changes we need to protect people and the planet.”

“The presence of hundreds of those being paid to push the toxic interests of polluting fossil fuel companies, will only increase the scepticism of climate activists who see these talks as more evidence of global leaders’ dithering and delaying. The scale of the challenge ahead means there is no time for us to be diverted by greenwashing or meaningless corporate promises not matched by delivery. It’s time for politicians to show they are serious about ending the influence of big polluters over political decision-making and commit to a future where expert and activist voices are given centre-stage.”

Pascoe Sabido, researcher and campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory

“COP26 is being sold as the place to raise ambition, but it’s crawling with fossil fuel lobbyists whose only ambition is to stay in business. The likes of Shell and BP are inside these talks despite openly admitting to upping their production of fossil gas. If we’re serious about raising ambition, then fossil fuel lobbyists should be shut out of the talks and out of our national capitals.”

“Instead, it is governments and communities from countries most affected by climate change that are finding themselves shut out, despite the UK claiming it has ensured an in-person and inclusive climate summit. Clearly that ambition only stretches as far as the fossil fuel industry. We need fossil free politics.”

Rachel Rose Jackson. director of climate research and policy at Corporate Accountability:

“The architects of the climate crisis cannot build a livable and just future when they’ve already burnt the house down. With Big Polluters in the building and so many of those on the frontlines left outside due to vaccine apartheid—COP26 is compromised. It is people on the front lines of this crisis, not polluters, who have the life raft we need at this moment.”

The groups behind the study called for a policy that excludes organisations with financial or vested interests in the production or burning of fossil fuels.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said governments were free to accredit who they wished to their delegations, some of whom may be from fossil fuel companies. But she said lobbying by these companies would be against the Paris Agreement and added:

“Some of our parties are oil-producing countries, some of them even have state-owned oil companies. We need all that industry to change.”

One of the biggest delegation identified by the study was from the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). This had 103 delegates, including three from BP, the study found. The researchers said IETA was backed by large oil companies that promote offsetting to allow continued oil and gas production.

IETA said it had members from “across the trading cycle” and it sought to “develop an emissions trading regime that results in real and verifiable greenhouse gas emission reductions”.

An IETA spokesperson told BBC News.

“We have law firms, we have project developers, the guys who are putting clean technology on the ground around the world, they’re also members of our association as well.

“We’re not coming to a shuddering halt today and tomorrow, and suddenly there’s going to be no emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

“There is a process to transition that’s under way, and carbon markets are the best way to make sure that transition takes place.”

IETA has tweeted details of events on carbon pricing and carbon markets at COP26 today.

12 replies »

  1. “We’re not coming to a shuddering halt today and tomorrow, and suddenly there’s going to be no emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.”
    So when? Never, if these lobbyists are to get their way – their numbers at COP26 are indicative of nothing if not determination to continue polluting.”We’ll still need oil and gas in…..” is a frequently read assertion in D or D postings, a self-perpetuating echo of their lobbyist masters, never to end…until it does, “not with a bang but a whimper” (Eliot). The polluters’ addiction to carbon trading and offsetting, being pushed now in Glasgow and being heard by policy makers, should tell us something about their (lack of) real commitment, resulting in continuation of a colonial relationship with the developing world, a bolstering of existing privilege and a reinforcement of climate injustice. It is unsurprising that our current masters, who showed their real colours on the recent occasion of the government’s attempt to exonerate Paterson, will support this “more of the same” whilst loudly proclaiming the opposite for their gullible supporters. It remains to be seen if the real people at COP26 can pull something more meaningful out of the bag this week.
    Another threat to meaningful government action to mitigate and arrest emissions is manifest in the estimated $18b action, instigated by five fossil fuel firms. and now underway, against governments’ attempts to tackle climate change. Those who so energetically combatted fracking have long been aware of the secret ISDS (investor state dispute settlements) which permit trading partners to take punitive action against governments whose policies (eg halting or reducing GHG emissions, or importing, say, contaminated poultry) place their profits at risk.’Caveat emptor’ as Johnson might say, (if he cared and if he were not tacitly accepting these ISDS.)

  2. Possibly followed by the delegation of those counting them?

    Just a small thought:

    Which “delegation” will pay the most to achieve the outcome from COP? And, yes it is about money-lots of it.

    Is COP organised for protest or progress?

  3. What an ingriguing and illuminating piece of research. Should it come as a shock? Absolutely. Does it come as a shock? Absolutely not. The numbers in the report above speak volumes about representation at COP26 and the power and influence they are able to exert, but very possibly in a subtly negative way. It would appear that the real influencers of climate change mitigation are on the outside, while those with the real power, but dubious motivation are on the inside.
    It has long been my opinion that CC mitigation has been a ground up movement, with those in positions of greatest power, whether governments or large multinational corporations, largely delaying, denying and obfuscating to benefit their short-term wealth and power. The tentacles of paid influencers have spread far and wide into every sphere of interest. We don’t have to look far! For many decades they were successful in all but maintaining the status quo, but the breadth and volume of genuine science and empirical evidence has gradually convinced more and more of the ‘ordinary people’, to the point where there is now a genuine wolrdwide groundswell that cannot be ignored. Politics is a numbers game, so governments have to start to listen and act when their core voters clamour loudly enough and in substantial numbers (yes even Tories). Massively powerful fossil fuel companies have to change their tactics when the evidence is such that their CEO’s have to answer a simple ‘yes’ to the questions: Is CC real and is it man made. It comes as no surprise that that change of tactics includes extreme greenwashing, well manipulated legislation and targets that are clearly further into the future than the expected lifespan of rich, middle-aged or elderly powerbrokers.
    COP26 will achieve some limited progress. The top down powerbrokers will continue to hold back that progress to the best of their ability, power and wealth. The ground up movement will continue to grow and influence. Will it be enough and in time?

    • Not sure the evidence supports that the powerbrokers will continue to hold back that progress, Mike.

      Looking at reports today it would appear there are many voters not willing to substantially change their lifestyle, so will there really be a big vote from them to do so? Meanwhile, if Governments want to make progress they need to cultivate the powerbrokers who hold the money to achieve it. (UK HMG and Rolls Royce, for example.) Crowd funding will not cut it. You quoted “their wealth”. It is significant and it is what is needed to compensate for the voters, many who quite like their current lifestyle. The ground up movement is not needed if “their wealth” is effectively utilised. Maybe the ground up movement needs to consider that and not worry too much about their own extinction, whilst they also lobby away.

      • Not all powerbrokers will hold back progress as there’s plenty of profit to be made from the transition, and I have no problem with that. However, a significant number will be holding back and slowing progress to their preferred rate, as stranded assets don’t make them money. It would appear they had a good turn out at COP26. One can but wonder why.
        Of course many voters won’t willingly change, because certain interests have spent decades convincing them that they don’t need to and that there are, as yet, largely undeveloped, undiscovered and unsuccessful wonderful new technologies to save them from what they’ve been convinced they don’t need. Keep up the good work Martin, someone surely appreciates it.

        • Yes, someone will, Mike. Perhaps quite a lot who if they are not willing will not be forced, when they see “engagement” become disruption to the point of life threatening? Perhaps quite a few who remember their childhood comic annuals with all the wonderful new technologies of the future and then grew older and found that most of them didn’t make it, and noted their buddies who had taken the plunge and were left with their own stranded assets-such as houses that couldn’t be sold because the roof had been leased to a solar energy scam?

          I, for one, have no need to wonder. If their investment is required then perhaps they need to turn out? Otherwise, another group would be asking why they were not engaged. I can identify some other individuals at COP where I would wonder why they have turned out, gone to sleep and broken wind next to the royal family and then expected to control the emissions for a large country, whilst losing control in individual States.

  4. OMG, 1720!

    Paterson and contaminated poultry in one post.

    Well, with “Paterson” the result will be? A change to the system to allow for Appeal. Something you don’t like, but will still happen. There will be a new MP, from an election which Labour cannot afford, and are likely to lose. Then after an Appeal in the Midlands, probably another election that Labour cannot afford, and may possibly lose. In which case the Labour leader may be hoping for the right to Appeal. Wonder if CWU will supply funds for either? Surely not-that would be “corrupt”!! Meanwhile, those gullible people will also be asking why Labour has difficulty even managing it’s own finances.

    Contaminated poultry? Hmm. A very dangerous nonsense. All poultry and other meat is “contaminated” with bacteria, 1720, that is why correct cooking should occur. There was a very expensive campaign in UK to make that clear to consumers some years ago and some now seem very keen to forget and undermine that effort for silly political purpose and if successful, will disappear when the results are evident. Lets all be vegans? Hmm. Even lettuce is routinely washed with chlorine.
    Perhaps the answer is just to encourage local production to high UK standards and cut down on transport emissions at the same time? Oops!

    Gullible people? Well, there are some around 1720, but maybe best not to rely upon them. You may just find there are some on an open public forum who have a little more knowledge around a subject than you expect. It is an interesting facet of the Internet that comments are made without considering that, whereas in a pub people are wary to do the same in case there may be someone present who is informed rather than gullible and then makes clear the author is uninformed and therefore gullible!

    Just to help you out, I will quote what the owner of the largest UK poultry producing company said to me in France when we were investigating how the French were suggesting to the EU that their system of poultry production was superior to other hygiene interventions, such as carcass treatments, and therefore should be protected by import controls:

    “This is just a load of protectionist b******s!”

    (He then arranged for his PA to organise his flight home, whilst the rest of our group continued around poultry sites in Brittany and then: a great, rapid, efficient trip by High Speed Rail (TGV) into Paris!)

    A pretty accurate assessment, although he had no gripe about it being followed as imports from certain countries were always going to undercut him, and the French, on costs of production.

    Do not undercook your chicken.

  5. The shock and horror of it all. Russia sends delegates to COP 26 as do other countries who are net producers and or users of FF. It would be interesting to add up all the delegates from net producing countries, net users and so on as well as comparing green tech lobbying numbers vs others. There would be a need to separate out those lobbying for green subsidy and work for integrated energy producing companies such as bp or Equinor. But maybe a step too far at present. Would a lobbyist linked to Rolls Royce be there to support aircraft engine use, nuclear, wind , or green tech. Maybe one linked to Siemens is there for gas turbines, wind turbines and CCS.

  6. So, Biden pushes off back to US and is pleased to get his $1 trillion through for infrastructure. And? Up goes the price of oil as the market predicts increased economic growth! Seems the market doesn’t see all of that within the renewable sector. Neither do the drillers, with oil rig counts in US continuing an upward trend. And now the Guardian has caught up with what is happening in DRC reference cobalt.
    Not sure that there were too many delegates travelling to COP from the DRC based upon those salaries.

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