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Fossil fuel industry nearly quadrupled registrations at climate summit since last year, watchdog report says

More than 2,400 people connected to the fossil fuel industry registered to attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai — a massive representation that’s nearly four times the number that signed up for last year’s climate gathering, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

Fossil fuel employees and representatives outnumber every country’s delegation except for the United Arab Emirates, the host of COP28, and Brazil, according to the report from a coalition of corporate watchdog and climate advocacy groups, including Global Witness.

Overall attendance at the summit has also skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 80,000 people registered for the Dubai meeting — more than twice the number who registered for last year’s summit in Egypt. The report was not able to count how many fossil fuel representatives are actually in attendance, though it has shown registration numbers have been increasing over the years.

The findings are likely to fuel tensions at the already controversial climate summit, where the future role of fossil fuels, the main driver of the climate crisis, is shaping up to be one of the key sticking points.

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, also an oil executive, has argued the fossil fuel industry should be involved in the summit.

The analysis from the coalition, which this year organized under the name Kick Big Polluters Out, looked at the provisional list of COP participants to identify registrants with self-declared ties to fossil fuel companies or organizations with fossil fuel interests or foundations owned or controlled by a fossil fuel company.

It found an “unprecedented” 2,456 fossil fuel employees and representatives registered to attend COP28, significantly more than the 636 who signed up for COP27 in Egypt in 2022.

This year’s analysis was made easier by the United Nations’ decision in June that for the first time it would require fossil fuel lobbyists to disclose their affiliations when registering for the summit.

Fossil fuel employees and representatives received more passes to COP28 than all the delegates from the 10 most climate-vulnerable countries combined, according to the research.

“The hallways and negotiating rooms of this climate conference are flooded with the largest number of fossil fuel lobbyists ever,” said Lili Fuhr, director of the fossil fuel energy program at the Center for International Environmental Law.

Some scientists and advocacy groups have expressed increasing concerns about the ambition levels of the summit after recently resurfaced comments made by Al Jaber in the run up to COP28. In a recorded panel session last month, he told participants there was “no science” that said phasing out fossil fuels was necessary to meet the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

After the remarks came to light on Sunday, Al Jaber fiercely defended his commitment to climate goals and science. At a news conference Monday, he told reporters his remarks had been misinterpreted and that a phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuels was “inevitable” and “essential.”

The number of fossil employees and representatives at COP summits has been increasing over the years, according to the annual report. Attendees connected to fossil fuel companies have attended COP summits at least 7,200 times over the last two decades, according to a KBPO report in November.

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