Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Have Flocked to COP28 in Record Numbers

The number of lobbyists for fossil fuel interests who registered for this year’s COP conference totaled at least 2,456.

Photo by John Englart via CC BY-SA 2.0

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It was standing room only at this year’s COP conference. For fossil fuel lobbyists, anyway.

A report from Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO), a coalition of climate change activist groups, found that the number of lobbyists for fossil fuel interests who registered for this year’s COP conference totaled at least 2,456, up almost four-fold compared to last year.

You Gotta Change the System From Inside, Man

According to KBPO, the fossil fuel industry sent more delegates to COP28 than the vast majority of sovereign nations. Fossil fuel and fossil fuel-adjacent companies demand a seat at the table. A CEO of a pipeline giant told The Washington Post that executives are: “tired of being told they’re bad people because they’re part of the fossil fuel industry, while they have a lot to offer on emissions reductions,” specifically referring to the switch to less-polluting (but still polluting) natural gas from oil.

Fossil fuel giants can invest in emissions reductions, and companies including BP and Shell can simultaneously invest in renewable energy, but this year also saw oil and gas firms reneging on previous climate promises, and some climate change activists see the swelling presence of lobbyists as an existential problem:

  • “You would not invite arms dealers to a peace conference,” David Tong, global industry campaign manager at nonprofit Oil Change International, told The Guardian. “Countries and communities are here negotiating for their lives, while the fossil companies and their enablers are here for their wallets,” he added.
  • A sense of dread might be motivating fossil fuel companies as well, as the International Energy Agency predicted in October that fossil fuel demand will peak by 2030. Meanwhile, researchers from the Center for International Climate Research (Cicero) found the emissions generated from fossil fuels have hit a new high.

Deep, Deep, Trouble: Good old-fashioned global warming aside, a whole other environmental storm is brewing over whether we should harvest the sea floor for minerals that could power the green economy. Deep-sea mining has provoked heated international debate, with some countries saying it would provide a valuable source of lithium and other rare earth metals, while others caution it could cause unknown amounts of damage to ocean ecosystems. Norway has come out for the how-bad-could-it-be team, announcing it will allow exploration for deep-sea mining off its coastline. Deep-sea mining in arctic waters? Sounds like a good way to wake the Kraken if you ask us.