COP28: More fossil fuel lobbyists attended climate talks than country delegates

COP28: More fossil fuel lobbyists attended climate talks than country delegates
Some 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists have been granted access to the summit in Dubai in a further sign that COP28 was being used by 'big polluters' as an opportunity to advance a fossil-fuelled agenda at the expense of frontline communities.
3 min read
06 December, 2023
Shell is one of the fossil fuel companies present at the COP28 conference [Getty]

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, according to a report by Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition.

The number of lobbyists at the event this year outnumbered the number of almost every country delegation except the hosts UAE, and Brazil, which will host COP30.

Fossil fuel lobbyists received more passes to COP28 than all the delegates from the ten most climate-vulnerable nations combined (1,509), underscoring how industry presence was dwarfing the representation of those on the frontlines of the crisis, the Corporate Europe Observatory said in a statement on Tuesday.

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"Nine out of the ten of the biggest group of fossil fuel lobbyists came from the Global North," the report said.

The largest was the Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), which brought 116 people, including representatives from oil giants Shell, TotalEnergies, and Norway’s Equinor.

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

While some of these energy companies have been venturing into renewables, activists cast doubts about their presence at the climate emergency talks.

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"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?" said Alexia Leclercq, climate change activist and co-founder of Start:Empowerment.

"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."

Hwei Mian Lim, of the 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."

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This year for the first time, as a result of 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 discreetly.

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.

Recent findings from KBPO have also found that fossil fuel lobbyists have attended COPs at least 7,200 times over the last two decades.