Tens of thousands of people are gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the annual UN climate change conference this month—and that includes hundreds of representatives from the fossil fuel industry who are sitting in on the talks and outnumbering representatives from some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, a new analysis has found.
At last year’s UN climate meeting, known as the Conference of Parties (COP), organizers of the conference in Glasgow made a grand show of declaring fossil fuels unwelcome at the talks, banning corporate sponsorship from oil companies ahead of the conference. However, fossil fuel interests still found a way to piggyback into the discussion. Last year, more than 500 delegates in Glasgow had some sort of ties to the fossil fuel industry, a group of campaign groups found.
One would think that after getting called out, the industry would have enough self-respect to behave a little better this year—but that’s giving polluters too much credit. Figures provided to the BBC this week found there are more than 600 representatives of polluters attending the COP27 conference in Egypt —a 25% increase over last year. The research was given to the BBC by the same coalition that did last year’s analysis, including Global Witness, Corporate Accountability, and the Corporate Europe Observatory
“COP27 looks like a fossil fuel industry trade show,” Rachel Rose Jackson, from Corporate Accountability, told the BBC. “We’re on a carousel of madness here rather than climate action. The fossil fuel industry, their agenda, it’s deadly. Their motivation is profit and greed. They’re not serious about climate action. They never have been and they never will.”
About 200 fossil fuel representatives are tagging along to COP as part of a country delegation, the analysis found. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United Arab Emirates alone was responsible for bringing 70 of those delegates. (The overall UAE delegation was more than 1,000 this year, up substantially from just 170 in Glasgow; the UAE will host next year’s COP). Coming in second was Russia, which brought 33 fossil fuel delegates. The 436 representatives not with specific country delegations, the analysis found, are attending with trade groups or other non-governmental organizations.
In all, the research found, the number of fossil-fuel-aligned representatives in Egypt this year outnumbered the total number of delegates sent by ten of the countries most impacted by climate change combined, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Mozambique.
When they’re at these talks, industry representatives are not just sitting quietly by—they’re making their presence known. And the influence of industry can be felt in some of the outcomes of the talks. Last year, the final text of the Glasgow Agreement contained several loopholes that many advocates and climate-impacted countries complained left room for the fossil fuel industry to survive and flourish as the world tries to move off its product.
Some have argued that having a seat at the table for the industry during these talks can allow them to become allies in the global energy transition. But many from developing countries that are most affected by climate change say that time and goodwill has run out.
“If you want to address malaria, you don’t invite the mosquitoes,” Phillip Jakpor, who works with Public Participation Africa, told the BBC. “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.”