A record almost 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists have been accredited for UN climate talks in Dubai, as negotiators wrestle with calls to end all new oil, gas and coal projects to curb global warming, campaign groups said Tuesday.
The COP28 meeting is being hosted by oil-rich United Arab Emirates, which has made no secret of its plan to include fossil fuel interests and has boosted overall attendance to more than 80,000, making this year's meeting the largest COP.
New UN rules have made it easier for observers to scrutinise those given passes, with COP28 attendees asked to provide for the first time information about their employer and their relationship -- financial or otherwise -- with the entity applying for accreditation on their behalf.
That makes comparisons to previous years tricky, but the NGO umbrella group Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) said the 2,456 people tied to fossil fuel interests they identified from a provisional attendee list was roughly four times the number of passes granted to these groups at last year's talks in Sharm El-Sheikh.
If taken as a group they outnumber "every country delegation" apart from Brazil and the UAE, the coalition said in a statement.
All COP delegates are required to be hosted by a government or registered organisation.
According to KBPO, France brought the head of its fossil fuel giant TotalEnergies, Italy included a team from Italian energy giant ENI, while the European Union brought employees of oil giants BP and ExxonMobil.
Meanwhile, the Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) brought 116 people including representatives from Shell and Norway's Equinor.
"Do you really think Shell or Chevron or ExxonMobil are sending lobbyists to passively observe these talks?" said Alexia Leclercq, co-founder of the NGO Start:Empowerment in response to the findings.
"Big Polluters' poisonous presence has bogged us down for years, keeping us from advancing the pathways needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground," she added.
The COP28 negotiations, held during what is widely expected to be the hottest year on record, have been mired in controversy since Sultan Al Jaber, head of the UAE state oil firm, was appointed the climate talks' president.
On Monday Jaber insisted that he respects climate science after he came under fire over a leaked video in which he questioned the science on fossil fuels.
The KBPO coalition, which includes more than 450 groups such as Global Witness, Greenpeace, ActionAid and Transparency International, analysed provisional participant lists for the 28th conference line-by-line.
Last month the group said that lobbyists had attended the climate conference at least 7,200 times over the last 20 years.