A tally has been kept of the number of lobbyists representing the fossil fuel industry who have been granted access to the Cop28 climate talks.
According to an analysis, a minimum of 2,456 lobbyists for fossil fuels have been given permission to participate in the Cop28 talks on climate change.
The number determined by the KBPO coalition is a significant amount that brings up concerns about the level of control that the fossil fuel industry has over the current UN summit, which is being organized by the leader of the national oil company of the United Arab Emirates.
The level of impact that oil and gas have in Dubai is unmatched, with nearly four times the number of lobbyists connected to the industry compared to those registered for Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh – which was a record-breaking year.
Lobbyists vying to push the interests of oil and gas companies such as Shell, Total and ExxonMobil outnumber every country delegation apart from Brazil (3,081), which is expected to run Cop30 in 2025, and the host country, which registered 4,409 attenders.
Campaigners state that there is a clear indication of prioritizing the profits of the oil and gas industry over the well-being of our planet and frontline communities, as fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber official Indigenous representatives by a ratio of seven to one (316 to 1).
Caroline Muturi, a coordinator for the advocacy organization Ibon Africa, expressed that the results reveal the ongoing colonial nature of these areas. She noted that law enforcement has become a means for corporations to cover up their harmful practices and divert attention from meaningful efforts towards addressing climate change.
This year has been another disastrous one for the environment, as a multitude of extreme weather events have occurred globally. Examples include record-breaking rainfall in Libya, the Amazon facing severe drought, and a significant rise in heat-related deaths in Arizona and southern Europe.
Experts state that the severe hurricanes, dry spells, and high temperatures would not have been feasible if it were not for the rise in temperature caused by the combustion of nonrenewable resources. It is necessary to eliminate the use of these fuels in order to prevent a complete collapse of the climate.
The drive to reach an agreement to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels at Cop28 has been gaining momentum, particularly among countries most susceptible to the effects of climate change. However, several of the largest polluting nations are resistant to this commitment.
Some studies estimate that developing countries experience irreversible loss and damage that exceeds $400 billion every year. This number is expected to increase, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue.
According to Rachel Rose Jackson, a research director at Corporate Accountability, if Cop28 fails to enforce a phase out of fossil fuels, the responsibility will lie with them. She expresses frustration with having to constantly reiterate why the fossil fuel industry should not have a say in determining climate policies.
KBPO is a collective of over 450 groups globally advocating for the removal of fossil fuel companies’ impact on climate policies. Due to persistent demands for increased openness, the UN finally relented and now requires applicants to disclose their affiliations. This could explain the increase in the number of lobbyists from oil and gas industries, as they may have previously attended previous climate conferences anonymously.
The information regarding lobbyists was gathered by Corporate Accountability, Global Witness, and Corporate Europe Observatory from the UN’s preliminary roster of approximately 84,000 attendees at Cop28. This comprehensive analysis is the most thorough examination to date of the involvement of the fossil fuel industry in these discussions.
Fossil fuel lobbyists were given a greater number of passes than the combined total of delegates (1,609) from the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. These countries include Somalia, Chad, Tonga, Solomon Islands, and Sudan.
A trade association granted access to a majority of fossil fuel lobbyists, with nine out of the top 10 coming from the global north. This included the International Emissions Trading Association based in Geneva, which had 116 attendees, including representatives from Shell, TotalEnergies, and Norway’s Equinor.
It is not surprising that there has been a significant increase in industry lobbyists, as it has been revealed that the host country intended to leverage climate meetings to benefit their own oil and gas companies.
The President of Cop, Sultan Al Jaber, was caught on record stating that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that phasing out the use of fossil fuels is necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
However, close connections between the government and industry are not exclusive to the UAE. The research discovered that France included delegates from TotalEnergies and EDF in its delegation, while Italy brought a group of ENI representatives, and the EU brought employees from BP, ENI, and ExxonMobil.
David Tong from Oil Change International stated that inviting arms dealers to a peace conference would not be appropriate. He expressed concern that while countries and communities are fighting for their survival, fossil fuel companies and their partners are only interested in financial gain. These underhanded tactics should not hinder our efforts to quickly and fully phase out fossil fuels with proper funding.
According to KBPO, a fossil fuel company is a business that has substantial involvement in activities such as searching for, obtaining, purifying, trading, or transporting oil, gas, or coal, as well as selling electricity generated from these sources.
In the previous year, an analysis by KBPO revealed that the number of fossil fuel lobbyists granted entry to the Cop27 conference in Egypt was at least 636, representing a 25% increase from the 503 lobbyists in attendance at the previous year’s conference in Glasgow.
Although the number of lobbyists this year set a new record, it is possible that the actual number is even higher. This is because the KBPO method only counts delegates who openly reveal their ties to fossil fuel interests to organizers.
Corporate influence and lobbying at UN discussions on climate change are not recent, nor only linked to the fossil fuel sector. Other industries that contribute significantly to the crisis, including finance, agribusiness, and transportation, are also heavily involved.
Several nations, corporations, and organizations argue that it is crucial to involve private interests in the negotiation process.
It is challenging to quantify the direct impact of the industry, whether positive or negative. Despite nearly three decades of discussions on climate change and undeniable scientific proof of the connection between fossil fuels and global warming, emissions of greenhouse gases are still increasing. On the fourth day of the talks, which took place on Sunday, 125 countries signed a historic agreement on climate and health, but it did not address the use of fossil fuels.
Fijian representative Drue Slatter, part of the Pacific Climate Warriors, expressed concern over the large presence of individuals at the negotiations due to fear. The community and scientific research have both voiced the urgency for their removal from these discussions.
Eric Njuguna, a climate activist with Fridays for Future Mapa in Kenya, stated, “The fossil fuel industry is not acting in good faith, promoting ineffective solutions such as carbon markets and carbon capture and storage.”
“We must not allow the industry to have an influence on these talks in order to truly achieve climate justice for frontline communities. It is imperative that a conflict of interest policy is implemented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organizes the conference.”