‘A twisted joke’: UN’s flagship climate summit sees sharp jump in fossil fuel industry delegates

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The sharp jump in attendees associated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants at COP27 is thought to reflect the rise in the influence of the fossil fuel industry to shape the debate.
Ahmad Gharabli | Afp | Getty Images

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — More than 600 fossil fuel industry delegates have been registered to attend the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, according to analysis from campaign groups, reflecting an increase of over 25% from last year.

The sharp jump in attendees associated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants at the U.N.’s flagship climate conference is thought to reflect the rise in the influence of the fossil fuel industry to shape the debate.

Campaigners described the findings as a “twisted joke” and said it appeared to set the stage for COP27 to be a “festival of fossil fuels and their polluting friends, buoyed by recent bumper profits.”

A spokesperson for Egypt’s COP presidency was not immediately available to comment on the findings of the report.

Around 35,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries are expected to convene in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss collective action to tackle the climate emergency.

An analysis of data from the U.N.’s provisional list of named attendees by campaign groups Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness found that 636 fossil fuel lobbyists had been registered to take part in the talks.

That reflects an increase of over 100 when compared to last year’s talks in Glasgow, Scotland.

It means that more fossil fuel lobbyists are represented at the two-week-long summit than any single country besides the United Arab Emirates, which has 1,070 delegates registered compared to 176 last year.

The data also showed that more fossil fuel industry delegates were set to attend COP27 than any national delegation from the African continent, despite the talks being described as the “Africa COP.”

Researchers pored through the U.N.’s provisional list of named attendees to count the number of individuals registered either acting on behalf of the fossil fuel industry or those directly affiliated with oil and gas companies, such as BP, Shell and Chevron.

‘Extraordinary presence’ of the fossil fuel industry

“With time running out to avert climate disaster, major talks like COP27 absolutely must advance concrete action to stop the toxic practices of the fossil fuel industry that is causing more damage to the climate than any other industry,” a spokesperson for the groups said.

“The extraordinary presence of this industry’s lobbyists at these talks is therefore a twisted joke at the expense of both people and planet,” they added.

To be sure, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, is the chief driver of the climate crisis.

A flurry of major U.N. reports published in recent weeks delivered a grim assessment of how close the planet is to irreversible climate breakdown, warning there is “no credible pathway” in place to cap global heating at the critical temperature threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“There’s been a lot of lip service paid to this being the so-called African COP, but how are you going to address the dire climate impacts on the continent, when the fossil fuel delegation is larger than that of any African country?” said Philip Jakpor of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa.

“More than 450 organisations around the world are calling on world governments to do what they should have done from day one,” Jakpor said in a statement. “It’s time to kick Big Polluters out! No more writing the rules or bankrolling the climate talks.”

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