Big Oil lobbyists should be banned from climate


As fires, floods, and extreme climate damage keep accumulating, the big question is how do we justly exit the era of fossil fuels?

As the preparatory UN climate talks continue in Bonn this week, new research from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Corporate Accountability reveals that the Big 5 oil and gas majors have brought more than 400 lobbyists to the UN climate talks since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

While COP28 in UAE later this year needs to once and for all announce the fair phase out of all fossil fuels, the continuous presence of oil and gas lobbyists at these summits is a clear and present danger to achieving this goal.

While COP28 in UAE later this year needs to once and for all announce the fair phase out of all fossil fuels, the continuous presence of oil and gas lobbyists at these summits is a clear and present danger to achieving this goal.

The UN’s anticipated new measure asking all attendees to publicly disclose who they work for is a welcome first step, but it needs to go far further.

For decades Shell, BP, TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil and Chevron — aka the Big 5 Oil & Gas Majors — have delayed, weakened, and sabotaged climate action.

Despite their pro-climate greenwashing, each intends to expand its fossil fuels production to boost the already bulging balance sheets.

By 2025 their combined plans would increase emissions by 6,674m tonnes of CO2, more than two and a half times the EU’s emissions in 2021 — not to mention decimate ecosystems and communities.

They are pitting their own profits directly against the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Centigrade and protect the planet.

Last year, these five giants made record profits of almost $200 billion, with BP subsequently deciding to reduce its climate targets to focus on making money from increased gas production.

That’s why campaigns like Kick Big Polluters Out, which includes more than 450 groups from around the world representing millions of people, are pushing for fossil free climate talks and a broader Accountability Framework to protect climate policy-making from the undue influence of all emissions-intensive industries.

Weeding out this influence is essential if we are to remove the largest barrier to justly phasing out fossil fuels.

We already have something similar for the UN tobacco treaty, because we’ve accepted that we shouldn’t ask the tobacco industry how to get people to stop smoking.

There’s a glaring conflict of interest.

So let’s stop asking the oil and gas industry how to end the fossil fuel addiction.

As a first step, public disclosure of participants’ interests is important because the public has a right to know who is at the negotiating table.

This week it was revealed that TotalEnergies had paid a pseudo-NGO to anonymously bring in multiple delegates to COP26 and 27.

This year, Exxon’s director of greenhouse gas and climate change, Michael Gerard Cousins, entered the talks in Bonn without declaring who he worked for.

Attendees should also be required to declare who is funding their participation in UN climate processes.

Here in Bonn, the presence of Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil add to the existing optics of COP28 being run by the fossil fuels industry.

Al Jaber, the incoming COP28 president, is also the CEO of UAE state oil and gas company ADNOC.

The influence of the fossil fuel company over the presidency’s office has been widely reported.

Having an oil exec as COP president is wholly unacceptable, but Al Jaber is merely the tip of a very oily iceberg when it comes to industry capture of the climate talks.

Others like the US and EU have spent decades advancing the interests of the fossil fuel industry in their climate diplomacy, and are doing so right now in Bonn.

In a meeting with a European negotiator, they continued to argue that fossil fuel lobbyists should be allowed into the talks, despite admitting they had no intention to reduce fossil fuel production.

Lobbying machine

The new research also exposes how the Big 5 have also built staggering lobbying machines in the US and EU since COP21 declaring a combined total of almost 2,000 lobbyists and over US$300m invested in said lobbying.

In that time, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson also became the US secretary of state, while Shell, BP and TotalEnergies have all been key advisors to the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during the ongoing energy crisis, successfully pushing for more fossil gas.

Real solutions for the climate crisis require bold action to curb fossil fuel industry obstruction in climate talks.

People’s calls have been echoed by more than 130 legislators from both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the aisle in a recent letter to US president Joe Biden, von der Leyen, and UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell also calling for an end to fossil fuel interference.

The fight to address polluters’ conflicts of interest has been a long one, but for any chance of COP28 announcing a fair phase-out of all fossil fuels, we need to remove the largest obstacle to progress: the influence of the fossil fuels industry.

Mandatory public disclosure is a decent first step, but we need a robust conflict of interest framework if we want to kick big polluters out.

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