The first climate talks to be held since the Paris Agreement was signed last year open today. But they do so with the fossil fuel lobby enjoying a seat at the table after the EU, US and Australia fought for it to be given observer status.
At yesterday’s opening press conference, COP22 president Salaheddine Mezouar called COP22 the “COP of Action”, while UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa hailed the great success of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement last Friday.
Expectations are high for the first climate talks to be held since the Paris Agreement was signed last year: 30,000 members of civil society are expected to participate in the Innovation and Civil Society side event and nearly 20,000 more as delegates in the UNFCCC-managed Blue Zone with over 40 heads of state and 30 heads of government confirmed for the Marrakech Climate Conference.
But one group of participants in particular is causing a major controversy: the fossil fuel lobby. As the Guardian reports, some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies will be represented at the climate talks by groups such as the World Coal Association, the Business Council of Australia, Business Europe and Business Roundtable through their “observer status”.
This means that representatives from companies such as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody, RioTinto and Shell will have “unquestioned access” and influence to many of the discussions in Marrakech.
The conflict of interest is plain to many.
“It’s hard to believe the World Coal Association is having conversations with delegates, encouraging them to more strictly regulate the coal industry,” Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International told the Guardian. “That’s completely against their interests. So what is their purpose in that space other than to continue to extract and burn coal?”
According to the Guardian, the EU, Australia and the US spoke out against excluding the fossil fuel lobby from COP22, arguing that the talks should be as “inclusive” as possible.
But for Kingsley Faulkner, deputy president of the Australian Council of Smoking and Health, clear parallels exist with the decision to exclude the smoking lobby from tobacco control talks, which ironically also open today 7 November in Delhi, India.
“There are a number of real examples where industries have huge influence on public policy, to the detriment of the health of the community,” Faulker is quoted as saying. “If politicians are serious about saying their first priority is the security and the wellbeing of the community then they’re going about it in a bad way if they allow the fossil fuel lobby to put that at risk.”