At least 2,456 delegates linked to fossil fuels are attending the Cop28 summit in Dubai, according to analysis of the provisional participants list.
The Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition – a group of environmental non-governmental groups and businesses – studied the list of attendees after it was published on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) website on November 30.
The coalition said it used a strict methodology, credible open sources and specific definitions to establish whether an individual was linked to a fossil fuel company or organisation.
The analysis suggests significantly more fossil fuel-linked delegates are attending Cop28 than almost every individual country delegation, except for the 3,081 people brought by Brazil – which is expected to host Cop30 – and Cop28 host the United Arab Emirates, which listed 4,409 people.
They have also received more passes to Cop28 than all the delegates from the 10 most climate vulnerable nations combined (1,609) and official indigenous representatives (316), the coalition said.
The analysis found that a vast number of fossil-fuel linked delegates are attending Cop28 as part of a trade association, with nine out of the 10 biggest of these groups coming from the Global North.
The Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Associations (IETA) brought 116 people including representatives from Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor, according to the findings.
France brought fossil fuel giants such as TotalEnergies and EDF, Italy brought a team of Eni representatives and the European Union brought employees of BP, Eni and ExxonMobil.
There have been growing calls from many quarters, including Global South countries, public officials, UN constituencies and wider civil society, to bar polluters from the international climate talks.
Alexia Leclercq, co-founder of environmental justice organisation Start:Empowerment, said: “Big Polluters’ poisonous presence has bogged us down for years, keeping us from advancing the pathways needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
“They are the reason Cop28 is clouded in a fog of climate denial, not climate reality.”
Caroline Muturi, from sustainability group IBON Africa, said: “These findings tell us that the dynamics within these spaces remain fundamentally colonial.
“It comes as no surprise that the majority of the corporations influencing these talks are from the Global North.
“In years past Cops have become an avenue for many companies to greenwash their polluting businesses and foist dangerous distractions from real climate action.
“This hinders the meaningful participation of African communities and the rest of the Global South in shaping climate policies that will primarily affect them.”
Hwei Mian Lim, from the Women and Gender Constituency, said: “If governments had required oil and gas groups to decarbonise from the outset, in line with what science says is needed to limit climate change’s worse impacts, we would not be in our current state of all-out emergency.
“We are where we are because of years of denial, delay and false solutions from the very groups that are responsible for the problem.”
David Tong, Oil Change International’s global industry campaign manager, said: “Polluting companies and their government enablers continue to invest billions in new oil and gas.
“If governments leave the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the end of oil and gas up to profit-driven executives, the outcome will be disastrous for people and the planet – fossil fuel lobbyists must be kicked out of Cop.”
KBPO said its estimate of the number of fossil fuel-linked delegates at Cop28 is likely to be conservative as it only counts people who openly disclose their connection to fossil fuel interests and not those who access the talks using a different professional affiliation.
The group said these findings build on calls in recent years to protect the UN’s climate negotiations by establishing clear conflict of interest policies and accountability measures.
This year saw changes to the registration procedure, which included making public all types of badges – not just those relating to contained delegations and observer organisations, which came after years of sustained pressure from civil society.
Recent findings from KBPO also found that fossil fuel-linked delegates have attended Cops at least 7,200 times over the last two decades.
KBPO is calling on the UN climate body and governments to pursue a robust accountability framework to address the problem at its root, as with the tobacco industry at the World Health Organisation tobacco treaty talks.
IETA said its membership supports a clear mission which favours business engagement in climate action consistent with the UNFCCC’s objectives through market-based trading systems for greenhouse gas emissions that are fair, open, efficient, accountable and consistent with national boundaries.
The organisation said it encourages members, which include Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor, to make public their emissions and plans for addressing climate change and it is committed to serve as a constructive observer of UN negotiations.
The PA news agency has contacted the UNFCCC for comment.