Fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber every single country’s delegation at COP26
Students of the 'Fridays for the Future' climate movement protest with a banner reading 'Burn capitalism - not coal' in Cologne, Germany. | Rolf Vennenbernd / dpa via AP

If the fossil fuel lobby were a country, it would have the biggest delegation at this year’s United Nations climate change conference, COP26, Global Witness, and three other organizations conclude in a report released Monday.

“At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, have been granted access to COP26, flooding the Glasgow conference with corporate influence,” the U.K.-based charity writes. The analysis “reveals the scale at which corporate actors with a stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels have been enjoying access to these critical talks.”

The groups identified more than 100 fossil fuel companies and 30 trade associations with representation at the COP, enough to “dwarf the UNFCCC’s [U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change] official Indigenous constituency by around two to one.” Fossils at the COP outnumber the combined official delegations from eight of the jurisdictions most severely harmed by the climate emergency over the last two decades—Bahamas, Bangladesh, Haiti, Mozambique, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, and Puerto Rico.

The release identifies Canada, Russia, and Brazil as three among 27 countries with registered fossil fuel lobbyists included in their official delegations.

Global Witness isn’t listing the fossil participants by name, but Canadian climate groups attending and following the COP identified three on the official delegation list, two from Suncor Energy and one from mining company ArcelorMittal. The wider list of general participants includes representatives of Suncor, gas-friendly provincial utility FortisBC, Alberta utility ENMAX, Emissions Reduction Alberta, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and the Canadian Nuclear Association.

A federal official said Ottawa is covering costs for only a small percentage of official delegates, and “I can confirm we are not paying for any representatives from the fossil fuel sector to attend COP26.”

But the four organizations behind the report—Global Witness, Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Glasgow Calls Out Polluters—pointed to a wider problem.

“The case for meaningful global action must not be diverted by a festival of polluters and their mouthpieces, who have no interest in seeing the changes we need to protect people and the planet,” said Global Witness Gas Campaign Leader Murray Worthy.

“The presence of hundreds of those being paid to push the toxic interests of polluting fossil fuel companies will only increase the skepticism of climate activists who see these talks as more evidence of global leaders’ dithering and delaying,” he added. “The scale of the challenge ahead means there is no time for us to be diverted by greenwashing or meaningless corporate promises not matched by delivery.”

“COP26 is being sold as the place to raise ambition, but it’s crawling with fossil fuel lobbyists whose only ambition is to stay in business,” said Corporate Europe Observatory researcher and campaigner Pascoe Sabido. “The likes of Shell and BP are inside these talks despite openly admitting to upping their production of fossil gas. If we’re serious about raising ambition, then fossil fuel lobbyists should be shut out of the talks and out of our national capitals.”

The BBC compares the 503 registered fossil participants at the COP with the next-largest delegations from Brazil, with 479; Turkey, with 376; Congo, with 373; Ghana, with 337; and Russia, with 312. The International Emissions Trading Association, with a focused interest in the development of carbon trading systems under the deeply contentious Article 6 of the Paris climate agreement, accounts for 103 participants, including three from colossal fossil BP.

This story originally appeared in The Energy Mix and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.