Revealed: 1,000 fossil fuel and big business reps at COP26

Nearly 1,000 representatives from the fossil fuel industry, big business and nuclear power companies have registered to attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, according to an analysis by The Ferret.

They include executives from Shell, BP, Equinor, Chevron, Total, Gazprom and other major oil and gas companies, as well as multinational corporations such as McDonald’s, Bayer, Walmart, HSBC, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Microsoft.

There are also delegations from the coal industry, tobacco companies and pesticide manufacturers. Eleven people from two climate sceptic think-tanks have registered for the summit.

Campaigners are outraged that the oil and nuclear industries were being allowed to influence COP26, and called for polluters to be kept away from the summit. They warned of the “corporate capture of climate policies”.

But the industries argued that it was important to “hear first hand from decision-makers” what they needed to do to meet climate goals. Some companies were decarbonising faster than governments, they said.

On 1 November the United Nations (UN) published a 1,616-page list of more than 39,000 people who have registered to attend COP26, which is due to end on 12 November. The Ferret examined the 11,734 non-governmental organisations that registered to come to Glasgow as official observers to the climate negotiations.

We found 233 people linked to the fossil fuel industry internationally. The biggest delegation was from the International Emissions Trading Association (Ieta), which registered 103 people.

Ieta represents the carbon trading business, and its delegation included three executives from BP: Jeffrey Swartz, Ingrid Parramon and Nigel Dunn. There was also David Hone from Shell, two officials from the Norwegian oil company, Equinor, and people from six other oil firms.

Environmental groups argue that carbon trading is a “false solution” to the climate crisis because pollution cuts are not guaranteed. But Ieta says that “market-based approaches” could effectively deliver climate goals.

Other fossil fuel groups registered for COP26 were the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers and the World Coal Association, with two officials. There were executives from the US oil giant, Chevron, and France’s TotalEnergies

Over 50 representatives from the oil and gas industry were part of four government delegations, with Russia’s including 20 from the fossil fuel funder, Sberbank, and nine from the state gas company, Gazprom

Kuwait’s delegation included 11 people from oil companies and Japan’s five from a think tank run by Mitsubishi, whose bank has been criticised for funding fossil fuels. Two representatives in Canada’s group were executives from tar sands developer, Suncor.

The presence and access of these big polluters is in stark contrast with the exclusion of civil society, which draws into disrepute the legitimacy of these talks.

Scott Tully, Glasgow Calls Out Polluters

The Ferret’s analysis identified 492 representatives from major business organisations. The largest was from the International Chamber of Commerce, with 91 people, including executives from BP, Shell, McDonald’s, Mitsubishi, PepsiCo, British American Tobacco, Nestlé, Bayer and Amazon.

Oil companies were also part of the 64-strong delegation from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, as were the US tobacco company, Philip Morris, the US retailer, Walmart, and the German car manufacturer, BMW.

There were significant delegations registered from Japanese, German, Spanish, North American, Brazilian and Indian business federations. Others included those from steel companies, the chemical industry, mining firms, airlines and landowners.

As many as 141 people registered for COP26 from the nuclear power industry across the globe, including the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association and the World Nuclear Association. More than 20 were part of the Young Generation Network of nuclear professionals.

The nuclear industry promotes itself as a low-carbon solution to the climate crisis. But some environmentalists argue that it’s too expensive, unreliable and dangerous, compared to renewable energy.

Big business registered at COP26

Tied to fossil fuel industry233
Big business492
Nuclear industry141
Carbon capture and storage26
Climate sceptics11
Source: COP26 Provisional List of Participants

Some 87 of those who registered for COP26 were from the food and agriculture industry. They included Croplife International, which represents multinational pesticide manufacturers, the International Fertiliser Association, which brings together 430 companies involved in plant nutrition, and farmers.

There were also 26 representatives from the carbon capture and storage industry, a controversial method of reducing emissions favoured by oil and gas companies. Two climate sceptic think tanks from the US are on the registration list, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, led by Myron Ebell, who worked for former US president, Donald Trump.

According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a total of 1,823 non-governmental organisations have registered as observers at COP26. As well as businesses, there are campaign groups, community groups, religious organisations, professional associations and many others.

This list is described as “provisional”, with a final version due to be issued after COP26 has closed. It does not include so-called “overflow” delegates which under UN rules can been added by countries without their names appearing on the official list of participants.

Friends of the Earth Scotland called for polluters to be kept out of COP26. “Many different groups in society need to talk and work together to tackle the climate crisis,” said the environmental group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.

“But the last people you want at the COP are the big oil firms who continue to profit from fuelling climate change and the nuclear, carbon capture and carbon market enthusiasts who are peddling solutions that are no solution at all.”

The campaign group, Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, decried “political failure” at COP26. “These big polluters’ climate plans are a death sentence for many, but they are nevertheless appeased by the authorities at the COP,” said the group’s Scott Tully from Glasgow.

“The presence and access of these big polluters is in stark contrast with the exclusion of civil society, which draws into disrepute the legitimacy of these talks.”

The anti-poverty charity, Oxfam Scotland, said it was “worrying” that those who have fuelled the climate crisis were given so much access. “Civil society groups, in particular from poorer countries in the south, have found it so hard to attend or even to observe the talks,” said the group’s head, Jamie Livingstone.

“Unless COP26 prioritises the voices of those facing the consequences of climate inaction, it will be impossible for the talks to deliver climate justice.”

Dr Will Dinan, an expert on lobbying from the University of Stirling, accused fossil fuel companies of lobbying to delay action to cut climate pollution. “Climate campaigners have long been concerned about corporate influence on UN environmental decision-making in general, and the corporate capture of climate policies in particular,” he said.

Delivering the energy transition demands the active participation of all businesses, governments, and citizens. We are fully committed to playing our part.

Spokesperson, International Association of Oil and Gas Producers

The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers stressed that it supported the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. “It’s important for energy industry actors to attend COPs as observers in order to hear first hand from decision-makers who set the ambition that they expect us to deliver,” said a spokesperson.

“Delivering the energy transition is a huge challenge, and demands the active participation of all businesses, governments, and citizens. We are fully committed to playing our part.”

BP said it supported the UK’s efforts to achieve COP26 goals. “We have had a very small number of people at the meeting to observe progress and take part in events on the sidelines of the conference,” a company spokesperson told The Ferret.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce, the “core negotiations” at COP26 were a matter for governments alone. “It’s plain wrong to suggest that business is directly involved in the critical path decision making that needs to happen at the conference to keep the world on track to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” said a spokesperson.

“Having business at COP26 is, however, a powerful way to keep the pressure on governments to commit to credible policies to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many companies are already going further and faster than governments.” 

Jonathan Cobb, the spokesperson for the World Nuclear Association, said: “There are business representatives for fossil fuels, and there are business representatives for nuclear, wind, solar, hydro and other low carbon generation. The second group will all need to be building new capacity on a much larger scale if we are to reach net-zero.”

This story was published in tandem with the Sunday Mirror.

Additional research by Rachel Tansey. Photo thanks to iStock/Urbanbuzz.

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