Marrakech Climate Talks- Is It Conflict of Interest to Have Coal and Oil Industry Representatives at the Table

As the world gathers in Morocco for the historic first meeting under the Paris agreement – called “COP22” but now also “CMA1” – it does so with the unprecedented involvement of corporate interests who have fought climate action around the world, funded climate change denial and whose fundamental interest is in extracting and burning as much fossil fuel as possible.

Representatives of companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody, BP, Shell and RioTinto will have  access to most discussions in Marrakech, will be called upon for advice and will be walking the corridors and holding private discussions with countries that are trying to move the world to stop consuming the products those companies have based their businesses on.

The bodies through which those companies access the COP22 meetings have been detailed in a chart created by Corporate Accountability International. Groups such as the World Coal Association, the Business Council of Australia, Business Europe and Business Roundtable will represent the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies in the meetings through their “observer status”.

The role many fossil fuel companies play in policy debates as the world attempts to curb carbon emissions has been clear:

  • A series of ongoing revelationshave shown the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades but publicly denied its scientific basis.
  • Analyses of the limited amount of public information about the lobbying efforts of fossil fuel companies suggeststhat ExxonMobil, Shell and others spend millions of dollars to manipulate public discourse on climate change.
  • When Peabody went bankrupt this year a Guardian analysisof court documents revealed America’s biggest coalmining company was funding at least two dozen groups that cast doubt on human-made climate change and oppose environmental regulations. Peabody will be represented at the meeting by six bodies with observer status.

Just one week before countries descend on Marrakech for the negotiations of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a new infographic by Corporate Accountability International reveals the true extent of the fossil fuel industry’s access to, and influence over, the talks. The analysis exposes the financial and membership ties between some of the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations and accredited business groups and trade associations at the UNFCCC.


Infographic by Corporate Accountability International:  How the fossil fuel industry influences the UNFCCC

 World Coal Association, an accredited observer to the UNFCCC, represents the interests of some of the world’s largest coal corporations like Peabody Energy, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. And, trade associations like the Business Council of Australia and BusinessEurope count as their members the likes of Exxon Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell—some of the world’s largest oil and gas corporations.

Many of these accredited observers have also  lobbied at the national and regional levels against environmental and renewable energy policies, further calling into question their role in the UNFCCC. BusinessEurope, for example, has consistently sought to undermine climate policy, including EU emissions trading schemes and renewables targets.

The Paris Agreement calls for a new and unprecedented level of private sector participation while providing no protections against corporations or trade groups that might seek to steer negotiations toward their (or their members’) commercial interests. At intersessional negotiations of the UNFCCC in May, Parties representing almost 70% of the world’s population called for the UNFCCC to study other international bodies’ policies in order to form its own policy to identify and address conflicts of interests that may arise between those interests and the environmental objectives of the Paris Agreement and the convention itself.

Further information and graphics