Climate campaigners are mounting a new effort to push fossil fuel lobbyists out of the influential back rooms of next year’s United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow.
Campaign organizations are calling on conference president Alok Sharma, the UK’s secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, to “kick polluters out of COP 26,” after news reports had the Boris Johnson government holding more than a dozen private meetings with colossal fossils BP, Shell, and Equinor as part of its early preparations for the high-stakes negotiations.
“The government has been widely criticized for its lack of preparation for next year’s delayed climate summit in Glasgow, and the revelation that it has found time to discuss the summit with three fossil fuel firms during at least 13 meetings in the past year have caused concern,” The Guardian reports. “Documents show that some of the world’s biggest polluting corporations have been lobbying the government, offering money in return for exposure at COP 26, and in one case saying they could act as an intermediary between UK officials and other governments around the world.”
That offer from BP has apparently been rejected, The Guardian says.
While the UK has yet to select sponsors for COP 26, nor disclosed how much cash or in-kind support it hopes to raise, it has now laid out criteria calling for sponsors that “have set ambitious net-zero commitments by 2050 or earlier, with a credible short-term action plan to achieve this,” The Guardian adds. It has also set up a Friends of COP group that includes Indigenous representatives and campaigners from the global South, as well as a civil society and youth advisory council chaired by two youth campaigners.
But campaigners still aren’t impressed. “Those organizing COP 26 say they want partners that are ‘driving positive change towards a lower carbon world’, but these firms are the ones investing billions in getting new fossil fuels out of the ground just when we need to be phasing them out,” said Culture Unstained Co-Director Jess Worth. “Now the disturbing extent of Big Oil’s back channel to the government has been revealed, the COP Unit must walk the walk and rule out sponsorship deals with the fossil fuel industry.”
She added that, “if we’re going to meet the Paris climate goals, only urgent cuts in fossil fuel production will cut it—and that won’t happen if those determined to keep drilling are sponsoring the summit.”
DeSmog UK says dozens of emails and notes obtained by Culture Unstained show the fossil companies offering “false solutions” to the climate crisis to secure their spots on the sponsorship roster. “In August, the government appeared to raise the bar for its COP 26 sponsors” with its published criteria, the publication states. But “while this was interpreted as ruling out fossil fuel companies, the COP 26 Unit confirmed to DeSmog that it has not eliminated any specific industries or businesses from the selection process, and that an announcement about sponsors will be made in due course.”
The notes show Equinor exerting influence on the possible shape of COP 26, even though it has not committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. DeSmog has details of the colossal fossil’s pitch and the UK government’s sometimes confused response.
The story has 350.org arguing to finally exclude fossils from the COP, in a petition to Sharma co-published with Culture Unstained, Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, Corporate Europe Observatory, Biofuelwatch, Polluters Out, and Friends of the Earth Scotland. “Big polluters have no place at the climate talks or in our future,” it states. “We can’t allow these companies to greenwash their image or try and influence these essential negotiations.”
In a post earlier this year for The Independent, environmental auditor and campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy, warned that fossil influence in the UK extends far beyond the COP. The eight members of the country’s influential Committee on Climate Change include:
• The head of policy from Drax, the company now working to build Europe’s biggest fossil-fuelled power station;
• A deputy chair who holds shares in Rolls Royce, Lloyds Bank, and BP, which McCarthy identifies as the world’s seventh-most colossal fossil;
• The senior economist from Shell, the world’s fifth-biggest fossil.
“The sole independent member of the Commission’s recent appointments board is Sarah Hogg—a director of Rupert Murdoch’s Times Newspapers, a shareholder in Shell, and a former director of British Gas, one of Britain’s largest oil and gas corporations,” he writes. “Rupert Murdoch’s papers internationally have been notoriously oppositional to the battle to tackle the climate emergency. Even his own son James Murdoch, earlier this year, publicly expressed his frustration with News Corp’s coverage of the climate emergency.”
In the United States, The Huffington Post says Shell and BP continue to fund climate denial, despite their recent, high-profile decarbonization pledges.