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COP28 and the Shadows of Lobbyism: A System in Crisis

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

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By Anais Penin

Edited by Mélanie Fourtanier & Federico Durante

As COP28 begins, a controversial spotlight reveals the core of international climate leadership. ADNOC’s CEO, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, has been appointed as president. This sparked a contentious discussion rooted in corporate shadows and conflicts of interest. By delving into the debates and controversies surrounding COP's credibility and examining the corporation’s implication in negotiations, urgent reforms are imperative to safeguard the integrity of global climate governance.


Corporate Influence: A Threat to COP’s Climate Leadership 

As the curtains open for COP28, the stage is veiled by a controversial element — the appointment of Ahmed al-Jaber as its president while also being the CEO of UAE-state oil company ADNOC. 

His nomination underscores a concerning trend of corporate influence infiltrating the very heart of international climate leadership. This corporate presence raises important questions about the integrity and effectiveness of COP negotiations. 

For almost three decades, COP gatherings have been seen as a light of hope, a global platform uniting nations in a collective struggle: the escalating climate emergency. They have a pivotal role in shaping global climate policy and cooperation among nations.

However, the increasing involvement of corporate leaders like al-Jaber in COP's highest positions casts a shadow of doubt over the summit's ability to prioritize environmental interests over profit-driven agendas.

Questionable Leadership

Appointing Al-Jaber as the leader of COP28 undermines the summit's ability to effectively address the climate emergency. Al-Jaber’s connections to the oil industry represent a conflict of interest and raise doubts over his ability to lead a climate summit to mitigate GHG emissions.

International organisations, including Amnesty International, have called for Al-Jaber to resign since this eventually weakens COP’s core mission of developing a global response to the climate emergency. 

While some support Al Jaber's commitment to a pragmatic approach, and emphasise the economic opportunities of the green transition, it is, in fact, a vicious attempt to hide particular interests under the cover of environmentalism. 

Still, an alarming fact remains: COP, an event meant to address the climate crisis, is now led by a contributor of those ‘dirty’ industries directly responsible for exacerbating the GHG emission level in the atmosphere.

Corporate Takeover at Climate Summits: Hindering Progress

The problem of corporate influence is not exclusive to COP28; it is embedded in the fundamental foundation of COP's mode of operation.

Previous COPs have been under criticism for failing to make significant progress on the issue of climate change, amid an overrepresentation of fossil fuel lobbyists.

The presence of oil and gas lobbyists has increased by 25 per cent from COP26 in Glasgow to COP27 in Egypt. The final communiqués of the conferences show their ability to influence climate negotiations since it stated that COPs are less ambitious and more indulgent towards oil and gas.   

The appointment of industry figures like Al Jaber only deepens concerns about corporate influence and lobbyism within these critical global negotiations.

Leaked documents explaining how lobbying efforts promoted oil and gas agendas during diplomatic meetings ahead of COP28 only serve to fuel these apprehensions.   

The trend highlights a structural weakness in COP’s governance that enables corporate interests to manipulate negotiation outcomes and undermines initiatives to take significant steps in addressing the climate crisis.

Urgent Call for Safeguarding COP’s Credibility and Efficiency 

The urgency of COP's mission cannot afford to be held hostage and influenced by narrow private interests. It demands a real paradigm shift: a reevaluation of its governance that ensures robust and transparent mechanisms to insulate deliberations from hidden influence. The credibility and efficacy of COP rely on this crucial reformation.

The international community, civil society, and other stakeholders must demand responsibility, transparency, and a renewed dedication to the founding principles of COP.

The collaboration of all nations in the fight against climate change should not be compromised by the shadow of corporate agendas and lobbying.

COP28: A Crucial Opportunity to Rectify the Course 

A meeting involving almost two hundred countries requires strict rules and sacrifices of national interests to reach a successful agreement. Unlike some previous COPs, government representatives must keep in mind the primary objectives of this summit.

They should set aside certain national interests influenced by oil industries if we hope to implement emission targets that are high enough to secure the future of our planet.

COPs have been compromised by the peculiar interests of petroleum industries. The time has come to reform these global conferences, by prioritising a more transparent and genuine collaboration.

These reforms are important to withdraw climate negotiations from the grip of market influence and moral corruption, which will enable COPs to meet their original function. 

We must move away from the influence of powerful sectors and focus on impactful solutions to address climate change.

It is crucial that COPs overcome the grasp of special interests and become a symbol of hope, by guiding society towards a more just, sustainable, and environmentally friendly future.  

Sources: BBC, Climate Reporting, Le Figaro, Le Point, The Guardian

Written by Anais Penin

December 2023

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of MJPE or its Board. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the MJPE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

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