"The sheer number of fossil fuel lobbyists at climate talks that could determine our future is beyond justification," said one campaigner.
A record number of fossil fuel lobbyists have inundated the COP28 climate summit in the United Arab Emirates, with new research released Tuesday showing that more than 2,400 industry influence-peddlers were granted access to the critical U.N. talks—a 400% increase over last year.
The Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition tallied 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists on the provisional list of COP28 participants, a likely undercount as the estimate doesn't include those who are attending the talks under a different professional title. A new U.N. rule approved earlier this year requires lobbyists at COP28 to declare their affiliation.
Representatives from ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, and other oil and gas firms outnumber the delegations of nearly every single country at the summit except Brazil and the UAE, according to the new analysis. KBPO said that more fossil fuel lobbyists received attendance passes than all of the delegates from the 10 most climate-vulnerable nations combined.
"You don't bring arsonists to a firefighting convention—or the climate talks, for that matter—but that's precisely what is happening here at COP28."
"The sheer number of fossil fuel lobbyists at climate talks that could determine our future is beyond justification," said Joseph Sikulu, pacific managing director at 350.org. "Their increasing presence at COP undermines the integrity of the process as a whole. We come here to fight for our survival and what chance do we have if our voices are suffocated by the influence of Big Polluters? This poisoning of the process needs to end, we will not let oil and gas influence the future of the Pacific this heavily."
Climate Action Network International added that "you don't bring arsonists to a firefighting convention—or the climate talks, for that matter—but that's precisely what is happening here at COP28."
"Big Polluter interference in climate negotiations is costing millions of people their homes, livelihoods, and lives," the group wrote on social media.
Many of the lobbyists were granted access to #COP28 via fossil fuel trade groups.
👎 Nine out of 10 the largest hail from the Global North; notably the Geneva-based @IETA, which brought 116 people, including representatives from Shell and TotalEnergies. #KickBigPollutersOut
— Climate Action Network International (CAN) (@CANIntl) December 5, 2023
Ahead of COP28, KBPO estimated that fossil fuel lobbyists from some of the world's top oil and gas firms attended past U.N. climate summits more than 7,000 times.
Advocates said the sharp increase in lobbyist attendance at COP28 underscores the industry's commitment to preventing substantive climate action as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, imperiling hopes of preventing catastrophic warming.
"Their agenda is crystal clear: safeguarding their profits at the expense of a livable future for all of us," Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. "The urgency of phasing out fossil fuels demands a unified, unwavering commitment from global leaders, unencumbered by the fossil fuel industry's self-serving agenda."
Industry influence could help explain the inadequacy of climate commitments that have emerged from the summit this far. The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, spearheaded by the UAE and Saudi Arabia—two leading petrostates—has been called a "dangerous distraction" from efforts to phase out fossil fuels, and a new agreement on a global loss and damage fund has been criticized as badly inadequate to meet the needs of frontline nations.
COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber—who is also CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company—has dismissed calls to phase out fossil fuels as his company plots a massive expansion that could make it the second-largest oil producer on the planet. Al Jaber has also used his role as the head of the summit to pursue new oil and gas deals.
"Oil and gas companies and their enablers—the climate arsonists fueling climate chaos—cannot be trusted to help put out the fire or deliver what we need: a full, fast, fair, and funded fossil fuel phaseout," said David Tong, global industry campaign manager at Oil Change International.
KBPO noted in its new analysis that lobbying at COP28 is hardly limited to the fossil fuel industry, pointing to the presence of finance, agribusiness, and transportation representatives.
"To share seats with the Big Polluters in climate change conversations is to dine with the devil," Ogunlade Olamide Martins, program manager at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, said in a statement. "This unholy matrimony will only endorse 'conflict of interest' and further facilitate the silence of honest agitation. COP's conclusions must be independent of industries' parasitic influences and must only address the concerns of the vulnerable masses."