To address the growing influence of fossil fuel lobbyists, the annual World Climate Conference (COP28) taking place in Dubai from 30 November until 12 December 2023, will require all fossil fuel lobbyists to identify themselves during the summit. The move aims to expose the covert actions of billionaire fossil fuel companies that have hindered progress in climate protection efforts.
Over the past years, climate conferences have starkly contrasted lofty promises and the lack of concrete action. This year, however, COP28 seeks to reverse this trend by holding lobbyists accountable and shedding light on their ties to powerful corporations. The list of registered lobbyists, including those representing fossil fuel interests, will be made available to the public, providing much-needed transparency.
Of particular significance is the fact that the United Arab Emirates is hosting this year’s conference, one of the world’s largest oil producers. The president of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, who also serves as the minister of industry and heads the state oil company ADNOC, will play a pivotal role in shaping the agenda and controlling the flow of information at the event. However, there were concerns about a conflict of interest, leading more than 140 United States and the European Parliament politicians to send a letter to the United Nations in May, calling for Al Jaber’s removal. This unprecedented action highlights the need for unbiased leadership in tackling the global climate crisis.
As world leaders and delegates from nearly every nation gather for the two-week conference, the focus will be on negotiating international climate policy and finding a collective solution to the pressing issue of greenhouse gas emissions. The ultimate goal is to meet the targets outlined in the Paris climate agreement and prevent further damage from the impending climate catastrophe.
With the new requirement for lobbyists to disclose their identities, COP28 hopes to pave the way for more transparent and effective discussions, ensuring that vested interests do not drown out the voices of those advocating for sustainable solutions.
But there are also critical voices. In a recent opinion piece by Amy Westervelt in The Guardian, the UN’s decision to mandate fossil fuel lobbyists to declare themselves at Cop28, the upcoming climate summit, she views it as a mere token gesture that does little to address the true extent of their influence. While the move was initially applauded, it falls short of the bold actions demanded by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who called for a phase-out of fossil fuels and an end to the industry’s manipulation tactics.
According to Westervelt, the UN’s transparent labeling of lobbyists appears to be a form of damage control, prompted by revelations from Cop26, where the number of oil lobbyists outnumbered representatives from any single nation. Merely exposing one element of the complex web of climate misinformation, in this case, the lobbyists, fails to neutralize their impact and may inadvertently perpetuate the illusion that industry representatives attend the summit in good faith.
To truly eradicate fossil fuel influence at Cop, the UN must take a more comprehensive approach that includes self-reflection and a reversal of its enabling behavior throughout the years. Westervelt argues that unmasking lobbyists is just a small step and urges the UN to confront its own role in perpetuating the power of the fossil fuel industry.
As the countdown to Cop28 continues, the question remains whether the UN will rise to the challenge and implement substantial measures that effectively address the influence of fossil fuel interests. The need for decisive action is paramount to ensure a fair and meaningful negotiation process that prioritizes the urgent task of combating climate change.