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COP26 defends inclusion of fossil fuel firms as An Taisce cries foul

The presence of fossil fuel companies has been criticised by environmental and human rights groups


COP26 President Alok Sharma. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

COP26 President Alok Sharma. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

COP26 President Alok Sharma. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

COP26 organisers have defended the presence of fossil fuel firms at the event, saying they were working to encourage all sectors to commit to climate action.

Registered participants for the climate summit include representatives of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, oil corporations from Ghana, Kuwait, Nigeria and Qatar, British Petroleum, Chevron, Lukoil, Shell and Equinor.

It also includes the International Emissions Trading Association, an industry-led organisation keen to develop a global market for carbon credits.

COP26 president Alok Sharma said he did not know how many fossil fuel representatives there were.

Asked if he had a view on their role at the event, he said: “We have theme days and you see the events. It’s pretty transparent, in terms of events taking place, who is involved and you can make your own judgment and analysis on that.”

The COP26 press office later followed up with a statement, saying: “Accreditation of delegates is a matter for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

“We are working to encourage the innovation and commitment of everyone – people, business, countries, cities and regions – as we move the global economy to net zero emissions. This includes a wide range of energy companies,” it said.

A query to the UNFCCC went unanswered.

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The presence of fossil fuel companies, and delegations from large industry in general, has been criticised by environmental and human rights groups, whose own delegates have had difficulty accessing events.

Kevin Keane, environmental advocacy officer with An Taisce, said NGOs had a tiny number of access badges.

“They are like gold dust. It means there is no meaningful influence or interaction with any of the negotiators or decision-makers by grassroots activists or civil society,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating. It undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of the conference.”

He likened the ‘green zone’, an area of public events to which many NGO representatives are confined, to a “wedding fair in the RDS”.

“It’s corporate sponsors and companies trying to sell their ‘solutions’ to climate change,” he said.

Mr Sharma said Covid-19 had placed restrictions on numbers.

“The issue is not the number of people – it’s the proportion that are coming from sponsorship and corporate backgrounds,” said Mr Keane.

“People wearing suits are no more immune to Covid than people carrying placards.”

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