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More Than 600 Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Attend COP27

Above Photo: Delegates arrive at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt on Nov. 7, 2022. Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images.

At last year’s COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow, there were more representatives from the fossil fuel industry, at more than 500, than from any individual country.

At this year’s climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, that number has increased by more than 25 percent. An analysis from Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness found that there were at least 636 fossil fuel lobbyists registered at COP27, more than the combined delegations of the 10 countries most impacted by the climate crisis. The findings renewed calls to ban fossil fuel representatives from attending climate talks.

“If you want to address malaria, you don’t invite the mosquitoes,” Phillip Jakpor of Public Participation Africa told BBC News. “As long as we have the fossil fuel lobby and machinery in full swing, we will not make progress and we have not made progress.”

The analysis counted which of the more than 30,000 COP27 delegates either had ties to a company that did a substantial amount of business in fossil fuels or were present as part of a trade group representing fossil fuel interests. These included major oil and gas companies like Chevron, Shell and BP. Because the analysis relied on publicly available data and delegates’ self-disclosure of their industry connections, it is likely to be an underestimate. It also doesn’t include representatives of other climate-polluting industries like agribusiness and plastics.

The number of fossil fuel representatives that were uncovered by the analysis was greater than any single country’s delegation except the UAE, which has 1,070 members. However, 70 of those members are also fossil fuel lobbyists. Including the UEA, 29 countries had fossil fuel lobbyists as part of their delegation. Russia had the next highest amount at 33. Canada’s delegation included three representatives from Enbridge, an energy company building a controversial pipeline between the U.S. and Canada known as Line 3 which is opposed by Indigenous communities.

The fossil fuel lobby was much larger than that of frontline communities. In addition to outnumbering the delegation of the 10 most impacted countries, it also outnumbered the delegation of any one African country and the total Indigenous delegation, Kick Big Polluters Out noted.

“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,” Kwami Kpondzo from Friends of the Earth Togo said, as The Guardian reported.

More than 450 organizations have backed the call to Kick Big Polluters Out, arguing that fossil fuel interests should be restricted at climate meetings in the same way that tobacco lobbyists are prevented from contributing to public health policy, Global Witness said. The coalition has four main demands that anyone can endorse by signing a petition:

  1. Ban polluters from participating in climate negotiations.
  2. Don’t allow polluters to greenwash their images by sponsoring climate talks or initiatives, as Coca-Cola is doing by sponsoring COP27.
  3. Facilitate the full participation of civil society, which has been restricted at COP27 especially by Egypt’s anti-protest laws.
  4. Create a new system that favors a just transition over capitalist growth.

The argument in favor of admitting industry representatives to climate negotiations like the COPs is that private companies can potentially play an important role in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, according to The Guardian.

The United States Council for International Business said banning private interests from COPs would “damage and slow implementation [and] marginalise one of the most central constituencies in the UNFCCC process,” according to The Guardian.

However, activists are concerned that the large number of fossil fuel representatives would actually make meaningful climate action impossible.

“Tobacco lobbyists wouldn’t be welcome at health conferences, arms dealers can’t promote their trade at peace conventions. Those perpetuating the world’s fossil fuel addiction should not be allowed through the doors of a climate conference. It’s time governments got out of the pockets of polluters, come to their senses and help make COP27 the success the world vitally needs it to be,” a spokesperson for the groups behind the report said in a statement.

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