After a one year delay due to the pandemic, COP26 will be held next Sunday, 31 October. These past weeks were filled with attention-grabbing demonstrations. sit-in Outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague, and a harbour blockade of Shell’s refinery in Rotterdam. The message to world leaders from civil society remains the same: Stop talking and start doing!
Will COP26 lead to the necessary action? Current forecasts are grim. The summit is expected to be the least inclusive COP. The U.K. government was recently urged by 1,500 civil society organisations to postpone the summit after it became apparent that most delegates from the Global South could not attend due to a combination of ‘vaccine apartheid’ and the U.K.’s stumbling COVID-19 response.
But it’s exactly these voices that must be heard, as people in developing countries are currently experiencing the most extreme impacts of the climate crisis. The irony is that the very oil and gas companies responsible for the climate crisis are also expected to attend the COP.
Let’s look back to 2015, when COP21 established the Paris Agreement commitments It offered a glimmer hope. To reach the Paris goal of keeping warming below 1.5°C, almost 60% of oil and gas reserves and 90% of coal must remain In the ground. Seven years later, we are still failing to reduce fossil fuel production. As Greta Thunberg Recently, I wrote, We are currently on track to a world that is at least 2.7°C hotter by the end of the century — and that’s only if countries meet their current pledges.
To understand why we’re still setting the planet on fire, despite a scientific consensus and a plethora of feasible solutions, we must investigate what is happening behind the scenes. It is well known that the fossil fuel industry blocks any government action that would stop drilling and burning as normal. However, less attention is paid to the mechanisms used in oil and gas companies’ hands to tie the hands our political leaders.
Fossil fuel companies have been around for decades lobbied against effective climate actionAt the national, EU, and international levels. Their threefold bag includes lobbying tricks This includes privileged access and huge lobby spending, as well as access to decision makers. revolving door With the public sector. The result is widespread control over decision-making processes, and mainstreaming of fossil fuel interests.
Our new research looks at the use of these three tools by six fossil fuel giants — Shell, BP, Total, Equinor, ENI and Galp — in the period between Paris and Glasgow. This small group of companies, along with five of their lobby organizations, managed to meet top Commission officials 568 times since 2015. And these talks did not come cheap: together, these companies spent over €170 million on their EU lobbying activities.
This same period saw more than 70 revolving-door cases: companies hired people who were previously employed by the EU apparatus, national governments, and agencies, and vice versa. Our research exposes a former chief spy who was hired by BP, a deputy prime minister who took up a position in Shell, and the former director of the International Energy Agency who now sits on Total’s board. These are the implications of revolving door casesThese high-ranking positions are important. A minister or civil servant at the top of their ranks will be able to enjoy perks such as a network with influential contacts and insider knowledge about files and processes.
Let’s zoom into some of our 70+ revolving door Some cases. Gerrit Zalm was a former Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minster for the Liberal Party (VVD). He was being paid as a non-executive independent director at Shell while he presided over negotiations to form a new Dutch government. Under Zalm’s supervision, a policy to eliminate dividend tax was included into the coalition agreement which Shell had been demanding for years However, it was not included in any of their election manifestos.
Or take Helge Lund, currently the chair of BP’s board. He was a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Sustainable Energy from 2011-2014, while he was also CEO of the Norwegian fossil company Statoil. The company has been rebranded Equinor to reduce CO2 emissions. continue to increase? despite the company’s claims to be transitioning away from oil and gas.
In 2020 Equinor recruited Amber Rudd, the U.K.’s former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and leader of the country’s delegation to Paris, for its international advisory board. She is a major. supporter Carbon capture and Storage (CCS), a cost-intensive and experimental technology that has already been used, is now available failed to deliver Despite decades of public subsidies wasted, CCS has been able to continue its development. CCS is also one of the ‘false solutions’ engineered by companies so they can keep burning fossil fuels. Equinor has big plans to implement CCS, including a controversial fossil hydrogen plant In the U.K.
Fossil hydrogen and CCS are just two of the risky technologies and flawed schemes that are part of fossil fuel companies’ ‘net zero’ pledges. They have made sure that fossil fuels can be used for the next ten years by setting a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. These plans are a smokescreen, distracting from the need for drastic reductions in fossil fuel consumption. real alternatives. Nonetheless, most political institutions have fallen into the ‘net zero’ trap: COP26 is dubbed the ‘net zero COP’.
If world leaders are to take action, the revolving doors between institutions, governments, and the fossil fuel industry must stop. The core demand of the Fossil Free Politics platform is the removal of fossil fuels from politics, as their business model and interests cannot be reconciled with the implementation of policies to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As in the case for the tobacco lobbyA firewall between the fossil fuel lobby and our decision-makers is essential. The exclusion from COP26 of oil and gas interests is an essential step. This will create the space we need to ensure a controlled phase out of fossil fuel production so that we can reach ‘real zero’.