Concerns over fossil fuel industry agents at talks


Civil society groups protest at the ongoing COP28 pushing for the phase-out of Fossil fuels using 'Do not Gas Africa' slogan. [Mactilda Mbenywe, Standard]

The number of delegates with fossil fuel industry ties at the 2023 UN climate talks has quadrupled compared to previous years.

Around 2,400 people linked to coal, oil and gas have registered for COP28 in Dubai - more than the total attendees from the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

This record fossil fuel industry presence has raised concerns about their influence over the summit, which aims to further global climate action.

The figures released by the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition reveal an unprecedented number of oil and gas lobbyists at COP28 - nearly four times as many as at last year's summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

With the talks being led by the UAE national oil company president, it underscores the fossil fuel industry's swelling influence.

This surge in industry representation, including lobbyists advocating for Shell, Total, and ExxonMobil, outnumbers the official delegations of almost all countries, except Brazil and the host country.

Caroline Muturi, a coordinator at Ibon Africa, noted that the fossil fuel lobbyists' overwhelming presence even surpasses the number of official indigenous representatives by seven to one, fueling concerns that industry profits take precedence over environmental sustainability and the well-being of frontline communities.

"COPs have become an avenue for these corporations to greenwash their polluting businesses and foist dangerous distractions from real climate action," Ms Muturi said.

These developments come against the backdrop of a year marred by catastrophic climate events globally, reinforcing the urgency of decisive climate action.

Scientists link extreme weather events like droughts and storms to the warming from burning fossil fuels. They urge quickly phasing out fossil fuels to prevent a full climate crisis.

Experts say phasing out fossil fuels is needed at COP28, especially for vulnerable nations. But the presence of lobbyists advocating against such measures remains a major obstacle.

The irreversible loss and damage in developing countries are estimated to exceed $400 billion annually.

Rachel Rose Jackson, a research director at Corporate Accountability, expressed frustration, stating, "If COP28 doesn't deliver a fossil fuel phase-out, we know who to blame. We are angry, and we are over having to explain again and again why the fossil fuel industry should not be writing the climate rules."

The KBPO coalition has been advocating for an end to fossil fuel companies' influence in climate policy.