With about 40,000 people registered at the COP26 climate summit in the UK, you would expect that most of them to be pushing for action like reducing our emissions or protecting the forests. Turns out, there are more delegates at the summit linked with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, according to a new report based on official data.
The UK NGO Global Witness analyzed the provisional list of participants at the climate conference and found that 503 fossil fuel lobbyists affiliated with the largest polluting oil and gas giants are now at COP26 — the “biggest villains” of the climate crisis, as Swedish activist Greta Thunberg put it.
The analysis shows that more than 100 fossil fuel companies and 30 trade associations are represented at COP. This makes the fossil fuel lobby group way bigger than the delegations of countries like the US or China, or even the combined total of the eight delegations from the countries most affected by the climate crisis in the last two decades (such as Haiti, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and Pakistan).
Also concerning is the fact that 27 country delegations have additional fossil fuel lobbyists among their ranks, including Brazil, Canada, and Russia.
The presence of so many fossil fuel lobbyists spells bad news for the climate negoatiations, says Murray Worthy, gas campaign leader at Global Witness. Worthy said the call for global climate action shouldn’t be diverted “by a festival of polluters and their mouthpieces,” asking for further progress at the COP26.
“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,” Worthy said in a statement. “There is no time for us to be diverted by greenwashing or meaningless corporate promises.”
They even have a booth
One of the biggest lobby groups identified by Global Witness was the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), with 103 registered delegates, including people from the fossil fuel companies BP and Chevron. According to the NGO, IETA is financed by many of these companies, lobbying for carbon markets as a way to keep extracting oil and gas.
IETA has a big booth at COP26, in which they host events during the two weeks of the summit. Most of their talks focus on carbon markets, which is one of the most difficult topics for governments to agree on in Glasgow. According to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to create a global carbon market for greenhouse gas emissions, but there has been little progress in this regard, and many feel this is not something we should pursue.
With so many big polluters in the building and so many of those on the frontlines of fighting climate change left outside due to vaccine apartheid — COP26 is almost compromised. “It is people on the front lines of this crisis, not polluters, who have the life raft we need at this moment,” Rachel Rose Jackson, director of climate research at Corporate Accountability, said in a statement.
The news at COP comes as environmental organizations and civil society groups around the world have questioned unequal access to the summit, listing barriers to participation, limited vaccine access, and costly travel restrictions. NGOs play a key role at COP, as they can keep an eye on what countries and lobbyists are up to during the climate negotiations.
A study published before COP26 showed the French oil company Total knew at least 50 years ago there was a link between burning fossil fuels and climate change. The same was the case of ExxonMobil and Shell, other studies showed. No wonder every environmental campaigner at COP26 is pushing strongly to kick them out from the conference.