Nearly 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists have been given access to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, a watchdog group said Tuesday. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Nearly 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists have been given access to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, an environmental watchdog group said Tuesday, reflecting an "unprecedented presence" at an event that has come under scrutiny for being hosted by one of the world's largest oil producers.
The analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition said that at least 2,456 lobbyists from companies such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and France's TotalEnergies received passes to COP28 -- more representation than the ten most climate-vulnerable nations combined, which sent 1,500 delegates.
The figure also represents a fourfold increase over last year's COP27 climate talks in Egypt, which saw 636 fossil fuel lobbyists, KBPO 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," climate activist Alexia Leclercq of Start: Empowerment said in a statement. "They are the reason COP28 is clouded in a fog of climate denial, not climate reality."
Several other environmental groups reacted with outrage to the report's findings on Tuesday.
"You don't bring arsonists to a firefighting convention -- or the climate talks, for that matter -- but that's precisely what is happening here at COP28," Climate Action Network International wrote on X.
As the COP28 summit enters its second week, debate around the future of fossil fuels is intensifying.
Many world leaders and scientists are calling for a commitment to a total phaseout of fossil fuels in COP28's final agreement, which has to be adopted by a consensus of nearly 200 member nations, rather than a less stringent "phase down" process.
"The science is clear: the 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning fossil fuels," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday, referring to the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 Celsius laid out in the Paris Agreement.
"Not reduce. Not abate. Phaseout -- with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degrees," he said.
COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber -- who heads the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. -- has defended bringing fossil fuel giants to the table, however.
"Let history reflect the fact that this is the presidency that made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies," he said in opening remarks last week.
Al Jaber found himself in the eye of the storm on Monday as questions continued to swirl around the decision to host a climate conference in a petrostate. He was confronted over comments he made last month during a panel discussion in which he cast doubt on the necessity of a phaseout.
"There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuel is what's going to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius," he said in remarks first reported by The Guardian.
He added that a phaseout would not allow sustainable development "unless you want to take the world back into caves."
At a news conference Monday, Al Jaber said that his comment was taken out of context.
"Science has been central to my career progress and yes, I respect the science in everything I do," he said.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore slammed Al Jaber's remarks, however, calling the controversial Dubai summit an "absurd masquerade."
"It was only a matter of time before [Al Jaber's] preposterous disguise no longer concealed the reality of the most brazen conflict of interest in the history of climate negotiations," Gore told the New York Times.
The event -- officially the Conference of Parties -- comes at the end of a year that saw scorching heat waves and extreme weather from flooding to wildfires around the globe.
Last week, the United Nations issued its latest global climate report, which concluded that 2023 was "virtually certain" to be the warmest year in the 174-year observational record.
On Tuesday, Greenpeace Netherlands released a new study finding that the 2022 greenhouse gas emissions from nine major European oil and gas companies could cause at least 360,000 heat-related premature deaths before the end of the century.
"If the fossil fuel industry continues extracting and burning fossil fuels at today's scale, millions of people all over the world could die prematurely," Lisa Göldner from Greenpeace's Fossil Free Revolution campaign said.
"Phasing out fossil fuels is a matter of life and death, so governments need to act now to ban new fossil fuel projects and force fossil fuel companies to rapidly cut their emissions," she added.
The COP28 summit is scheduled to run until Dec. 12.