A group representing a coalition of environmental groups has combed through public lists of people admitted to the United Nations’ COP28 climate talks and found at least 2,456 people it considers fossil fuel lobbyists.
The Kick Out the Big Polluters coalition said this means COP28, being held in Dubai, has the largest number of fossil fuel stakeholders known to be taking part in one of the United Nations’ annual climate talks.
“It is unconscionable that the number of fossil fuel lobbyists in climate negotiations could determine our future,” Joseph Sikulu, Pacific managing director of nonprofit 350.org, a member of the coalition, said in a statement. “Their increasing participation in the Conference of the Parties undermines the integrity of the entire process.”
The coalition conducted a similar analysis of the past two COPs and found a sharp increase in the number of people with fossil fuel interests.
At last year’s meeting in Egypt, the group identified 636 fossil fuel lobbyists, and at the 2021 COP meeting in Scotland, 503 lobbyists were identified. The group found that over the past 20 COP meetings, at least 7,200 COPs have been attended by people representing fossil fuel interests.
The U.N. talks have been criticized by several environmental groups and climate change researchers over apparent conflicts of interest in leadership this year. The host country, the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil producers, appointed an executive from Emirates National Oil Co. to chair COP28.
COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber has rebutted his critics, including in his opening remarks on the first day of talks.
“Let history reflect the fact that this president made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies,” Jaber said, touting a deal with oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions. Take this as evidence of the industry. Can be part of the climate solution.
U.S. special presidential climate envoy John Kerry defended Al-Jaber, who also served as an executive at Emirates Renewable Energy.
Climate activists are seeking greater transparency into the COP process and requirements to disclose potential conflicts of interest. COP28 is the first conference to operate under new transparency rules, where attendees must disclose the identity of those they represent.
For the purpose of its analysis, the coalition defined fossil fuel lobbyists as actors who “could reasonably be assumed” to be dedicated to influencing outcomes in favor of fossil fuel companies.
They include representatives who say they have ties to fossil fuel companies and members of groups with fossil fuel interests. Many of the representatives identified by the group are fossil fuel lobbyists who are attending COP28 as part of trade associations.
The Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) has 116 people attending COP28, including representatives from Shell, French oil group Total Energies and Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor, according to the organization’s analysis.
When contacted for comment, an IETA spokesperson instead provided the organization’s policy on COP participation, which requires delegates to adhere to United Nations standards and requirements for participation in the COP.