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How the Large Presence of Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Affects the COPs – “Global Climate Conferences”

  • There is an international scientific consensus that fossil fuels are harmful to the climate, contributing to global warming.
  • The Climate Conference (COP) is held by the United Nations, so that there is a dialogue between countries in order to mitigate the damage caused by the use of non-renewable energy.
  • The presence of hundreds of oil and gas lobbyists undermines negotiations over an energy transition and reflects the geopolitical power of rich and influential countries.

Fossil fuels were the most important source of energy in the 20th century and continue to be in the 21st century. Thanks to these sources, several technological advances could be achieved in this period.

Despite this, oil, natural gas and coal originate from the slow decomposition of living beings and plants over thousands or millions of years in the deep layers of the earth’s crust, which characterizes it as a finite source of resources.

In addition, the exhaustive use and burning of fossil fuels dramatically increases the level of one of the most polluting gases in the Earth’s atmosphere: carbon dioxide. Fact that collaborates rapidly with global warming.

For this reason, the presence of fossil lobbyists at COP 27 generates great concern among environmental advocates, as there is a great increase in the influence of the fossil fuel industry in climate negotiations.

Source: Dreamstime

What is the Climate Conference or COP?

The acronym COP stands for “Conference of the Parties”, in English, and this meeting is also known as the Climate Conference.

The COP is a meeting held annually by the United Nations, with representatives from different countries, which has the main objective of debating climate change, finding solutions to the environmental problems that affect the planet and negotiating agreements for the implementation by different nations of these same solutions.

The Conference takes place every year since 1995, had its first edition in Germany, and in 2022 it was held in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. All countries that ratified the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) participated in the COP 27, which today totals 198 States.
The report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the impacts on climate, adaptation and vulnerability for the agenda of the 2022 edition.

According to The Nature Conservancy, the increase in the frequency and intensity of climate change threatens the health and safety of millions of people around the world, both through direct impact and through consequences in the difficulty of food production and access to clean water.

How do advances in protecting the world’s environment depend on international cooperation?

The concern with the regulation of the environment is recent, considering that the first international treaties for the protection of nature were carried out at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, such as the Paris Agreement.

It is possible to state that the environmental crisis is a consequence of human behavior and its management of the natural resources available on the planet, resulting in the “tragedy of the commons”. This term refers to the situation in which individuals, acting rationally in their own interest, act irrationally as a collective group, irreparably depleting a resource that is in common ownership. Therefore, the current climate change crisis is an example of “tragedy” on a global scale.

Likewise, a “collective action problem” can be generated, as for many individuals, companies and countries, there is a conflict between individual interest and group interest. In the context of climate change, each individual has the choice to act selfishly or to cooperate.

In this type of problem, individuals tend to act selfishly, overriding the interest of other individuals and regardless of what others do. However, if all individuals collaborated on climate issues, everyone could have better results. In other words, it is in the interest of the individual to act selfishly, but it is in the interest of the group that everyone cooperate for the common good.

In addition, there is an understanding that the intensive use of natural resources, pollution and climate change on the planet have placed humanity in a serious ecological crisis globally.

Therefore, the origin of international cooperation for the preservation of the environment is given by the awareness that there is a need for joint management of the environmental crisis.

Therefore, for the energy transition to take place, it is necessary to align environmental issues with the topics of International Relations and Global Governance among countries, since environmental problems go beyond all national borders.

Without this happening, States – including the most polluting ones on the planet – will hardly commit themselves voluntarily to the cause, nor will they suffer any pressure from other countries, so that carbon emissions are reduced, irreversibly harming climate conditions. and the quality of life on Earth.

How do fossil fuel lobbyists threaten the energy transition?

The energy transition is a necessary change that involves not only energy generation, but also its consumption and reuse.

In a practical way, it is the exchange of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) for renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass.

Furthermore, the energy transition extends to the environment, waste management, energy efficiency, digitization and other means necessary for us to achieve the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their consequent influences on climate change.

Therefore, the presence of lobbyists in climate negotiations becomes an obstacle in the dialogue between countries since, by definition, the role of a lobbyist is to manipulate negotiations in the public sphere for their own benefit, that of their allies, or to harm others. opponents.

At COP27, in November 2022, more than 600 representatives of the oil and gas industries were discovered, resulting in a 25% increase since COP26, despite not being authorized by the United Nations (UN) to participate in the Conference, as according to the UN, this would be against the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the convention.

​​Therefore, the failure to advance the necessary measures against global warming at the Climate Conference can be measured by the number of lobbyists who infiltrated the event through the delegations of different countries.

Why is the presence of lobbyists at COP’s detrimental to climate protection and how do they move the geopolitical chessboard?

The presence of hundreds of people being paid to defend the toxic interests of large polluting companies that use fossil fuels will only divert the real focus of the Conference and increase the inefficiency of agreements in favor of reducing climate impacts.

The presence of 636 lobbyists at COP27 surpassed the sum of delegations from the 10 countries most affected by the climate. Delegations from African countries and indigenous communities are practically nullified in the face of numerous representatives of corporate interests, which generates revolt in civil society.

The meeting in Sharm El-Sheik would be crucial for the response of other African countries to climate change, as the poorest and least influential nations on the international stage are the ones that suffer most from the consequences of global warming, despite contributing little to the emission of polluting gases, compared to the great world powers.

In addition, these countries need greater assistance to mitigate the risks and damage already suffered, with the aim of achieving the bold goals of zero carbon emissions, since they hold less capital and political power compared to the great powers and economies.

For this reason, COP27 agreed on the creation of a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries, which is a historic achievement at the Conference. However, the presence of lobbyists ended up demonstrating the geopolitical power of the countries that own the largest and richest oil companies in the world, by placing their interests at the negotiating table, in a veiled and illegal manner. This explains why COP 27 made no progress with regard to the elimination of fossil fuels.

Therefore, COP27 disappoints by not bringing proposals and agreements to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5ºC by 2100, once again showing the power of large oil and gas companies to influence decision-making at a global level. Which will certainly continue to harm the climate and, consequently, the countries and their most vulnerable citizens.

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