Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Flood the UN Climate Talks in Egypt
Corporate mouthpieces outnumber the representatives of nearly all countries
There are more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at the COP27 climate conference, a rise of more than 25 percent from last year and outnumbering any one frontline community affected by the climate crisis.
There are 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered to attend the UN event in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At Glasgow, the figure was 503, which outnumbered the delegation of any single country. This year the only country with a larger delegation is the United Arab Emirates, host of COP28 next year, which has 1,070 registered delegates, up from 176 last year.
At COP27, “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,” said the group Kick Big Polluters Out, which campaigns against the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists at the climate negotiations.
The data on lobbyists, compiled by the organizations Corporate Accountability, Global Witness, and Corporate Europe Observatory, shows the growing influence of oil and gas interests at the climate talks. While many environmental groups hoping to encourage the transition away from fossil fuels say it can be beneficial to bring private interests to the negotiating table, these benefits risk being outweighed by the sheer size of the delegations and suspicions that lobbyists attend the talks to slow progress rather than discuss limiting their own industries.
Civil society groups fear that the increasing presence of fossil fuel lobbyists risks stymieing negotiations at an essential time, amid efforts to keep global temperature rises within the 1.5°C of warming scientists agree is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.
“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,” said Kwami Kpondzo from Friends of the Earth Togo.
In a recent submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—the body that oversees COP—to discuss the role of private business at the talks, a coalition of civil society groups said 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.”
In response, the United States Council for International Business pushed back against any suggestion that there should be limits on corporate interests at the climate talks, saying this would “damage and slow implementation [and] marginalize one of the most central constituencies in the UNFCCC process.”