With nearly 1,000 representatives from the fossil fuel industry and big business — and over 40 official and unofficial side events involving them — there was no shortage of corporate events at COP26.
Some of the events – criticised as platforms for greenwashing – were filmed by The Ferret. They provided a space for corporates to meet with decision-makers, politicians and negotiators. These firms were promoting techno-fixes to the climate crisis such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and blue hydrogen, made from natural gas with CCS, that also enable their business models to stay profitable.
Just across the River Clyde from the main negotiating halls of COP26, the Sustainable Innovation Forum took place from 7 to 10 November. Its corporate partners included BMW, EDF, Neste, Coca-Cola, Dow, and Drax Group, whose bioenergy power plant is the UK’s single biggest source of CO2.
Speaking at the event, Will Gardner, Drax Group CEO, commented: “Maybe different to other COPS that have happened before is that the corporate presence has been bigger here than maybe in the past.”
The Hilton hosted the World Climate Summit – The Investment COP on 7 and 8 November. The event was sponsored by firms with oil or gas interests, like Neste, Centrica and National Grid, and investors who’ve bankrolled fossil fuels for decades.
Its speakers included Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who echoed the fossil fuel industry’s interest in hydrogen and carbon capture.
Scottish oil and gas services firm Wood organised a two-week series of events during COP26, with corporate partners like Bentley, Microsoft and the Hydrogen Council, whose members include BP, Chevron, Shell, Equinor and Total.
In an interview recorded at the Wood event, Dan Carter, the firm’s Global Director of Decarbonisation and New Energies, told The Ferret the company was “developing new solutions around renewables, integration of hydrogen technology and carbon capture”.
He added: “We are moving from where we are today to a future state where we have a decarbonised fossil fuel portfolio but that also has a lower potential in terms of its percentage makeup in terms of the energy mix.”
‘False solution’ greenwashing
However, with industry’s technofixes not expected at scale until the 2030s, and the IPCC warning that drastic emissions cuts are needed before 2030, Friends of the Earth’s Myriam Douo said that “false solutions” proposed by the fossil fuel industry are a “desperate attempt to stay relevant and to keep getting public subsidies from governments”.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been heralded by some as a technological answer to the climate crisis and others as a false solution.
In the last fortnight The Ferret has looked in-depth at the dominant presence of fossil fuel industries at COP26.
You can also see more videos from our coverage of COP26 on our YouTube channel. The introduction to this article was amended on 16 and 17 November 2021 to clarify attendance and events at COP26.