World leaders must bring in stricter criteria to exclude fossil fuel companies from decision-making, campaigners have urged, as talks at the crucial COP26 summit enter their fifth day.
A broad coalition of 138 green groups submitted an open letter in Glasgow on Wednesday, calling for decision-makers to address the “elephant in the room holding back global climate ambition: the fossil fuel industry and its lobbying”.
The letter calls on leaders including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, COP26 President Alok Sharma and head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa to revoke the sponsorship of two of the companies officially partnering the event – National Grid and Scottish energy provider SSE.
It also urges the leaders at COP26 to agree on a new UN-backed treaty that would exclude fossil fuel companies’ involvement in climate policy making, following the example of the World Health Organisation-backed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“For decades the fossil fuel industry has been successfully delaying, weakening and sabotaging greater climate ambition, and as long as it continues to maintain its access to decision-makers and the policy-making process, then it will use that access to obstruct real climate action,” read the letter, whose signatories include Friends of the Earth, Fridays for Future and 350.org.
“The UNFCCC, the EU and UK should ensure climate decision-making is protected from fossil fuel interests at the regional, national and local level. In addition to closing the revolving door, this should involve ending private lobby meetings with the fossil fuel industry, excluding the industry from climate or trade delegations, and refusing to attend fossil fuel-sponsored events.”
However, sponsors of the summit still include fossil fuel-reliant utility companies National Grid and SSE, which have both been criticised over the emissions they produce from their gas plants. And while oil and gas companies have been excluded from playing a formal part in proceedings, they have still been able to access the summit.
The signatories call on the UK and the UN to revoke the sponsorship of the two companies and demand representatives of the UK, European Union and UNFCCC “refuse to share platforms or attend fossil fuel sponsored events” in and around the summit.
Responding to the letter’s concerns, a UK government spokesperson told DeSmog the government was working to encourage “innovation and commitment of everyone, including energy companies, as we move the global economy to net zero emissions”.
As well as calling for the “revolving door” between politicians and fossil fuel industry representatives to close, the letter also demands an end to private meetings between those parties at the local, regional and national level.
Analysis released by transparency and environmental groups last week revealed the phenomenon of the “revolving door” – where public officials go on to work for private companies, bringing potentially politically advantageous knowledge and contacts – was widespread among European fossil fuel companies. Dozens of EU officials and former officials had left or joined roles with industry giants including Shell and BP in the last six years, the research showed.
A separate analysis by DeSmog found that officials from the UK’s Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the department responsible for the UK’s energy and climate decision-making, had met with officials from fossil fuel and biomass companies nine times as often as clean energy producers between June 2019 and May 2021. This included at least one meeting with Sharma, the COP26 President.
The EU Commission and UNFCCC had not responded to a request for comment in time for publication.