May 23, 2023

Release: US and EU Legislators Call for Climate Talks Free of Fossil Fuel Industry Interference

In lead-up to June climate talks, official demand ouster of oil executive as president of upcoming COP

WASHINGTON, DC/BRUSSELS, BELGIUM—Today, Member of the European Parliament Manon Aubry and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) released a transatlantic sign-on letter calling for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address persistent fossil fuel industry interference. Addressed to US President Biden, President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen, UN Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, and Secretary General António Guterres, the letter asks world leaders and UN institutions alike to advance accountability measures to safeguard UNFCCC from industry interference, beginning with the removal of an oil executive as the president of forthcoming talks. The effort reinforces calls from a global network of more than 450 organizations, representing millions of people, that is demanding polluters be kicked out of climate talks as a critical means of assuring ambitious action in 2023.

The letter, which has garnered 130 signatures across both sides of the Atlantic, was delivered as countries prepare for the next round of climate talks in Bonn this June. Not only are Bonn talks where the agenda for COP 28 is shaped, they may present a critical opportunity to set policy addressing corporate capture of the UNFCCC. Recent talks have been deluged by fossil fuel industry lobbyists. COP sponsorship by major polluters has cast a further pall on proceedings. And brazen conflicts of interest have gone unaddressed.

One of the authors, Member of Parliament Manon Aubrey, expanded on the intention behind the letter, “For billions of people, the outcome of COP28 and ensuing international climate negotiations will make the difference between life and death, chaos and solidarity. Corporate greed and lobbyists’ lies have led us into this climate crisis. We must prevent private commercial interests from interfering in politics and regain ownership of our future.”

Leading the efforts on the US congressional side, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse highlighted the urgency and timeliness of the effort as we approach COP 28, “COPs offer the largest and most important venue to find international agreement on ways to solve the climate crisis. Companies participating should be required to file audited climate political footprint statements to ensure transparency at the world’s major forum for leading the planet to safety in the race against climate change.”

The letter calls for a suite of measures to ensure that “climate science takes precedence over climate delay and greenwashing.” It recommends fossil-fuel free leadership of the talks and procedures to advance broader accountability measures that “limit the influence of the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists in the UNFCCC decision-making process.”

“Globally, Big Polluters like Shell and TotalEnergies have spent the last 50 years lobbying against meaningful climate action. These upcoming UN climate talks are our best chance at tackling the problem head on, with hundreds of decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the aisle backing our call for a conflict-of-interest policy,” said Pascoe Sabido, co-coordinator for Kick Big Polluters Out. “So far the US and EU have proven to be major blockers, siding with the fossil fuel industry. If they want to walk the talk of being a climate leader, it’s time to switch sides and back a policy not just at the UN but also at home.”

As it has historically, fossil fuel industry interference will loom large in almost every aspect of June and November talks. The industry’s denial, deception, and delay will be at topic in Bonn’s stocktake on the failures of global climate commitments to date. The extent to which the Bonn agenda centers unproven, risky, and largely ineffectual industry-backed schemes like carbon markets over critical interventions like halting new fossil fuel development will owe to industry’s politicking. And even the hashing out of the details around a global loss and damage fund could be stunted by fossil fuel interests concerned about the precedent it could set for them in paying for their historic pollution.


Additional quotes from endorsers and allies:

“At least 636 lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry registered to attend last year’s UN Climate Change Conference, the largest climate gathering in the world. That’s a bad sign for our planet. Ahead of this year’s conference, we must demand corporate accountability and transparency. If companies want to participate, they should have to disclose any climate-related lobbying, contributions, or funding. Americans deserve to know who is at the table.” –Congressman Ro Khanna

“An oil boss as head of the global climate conference marks a new level of audacity by the fossil lobby. Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber must resign immediately so that global climate protection regains its credibility. To make progress on climate protection, we need to limit the power of the fossil lobby. Instead of letting the fox guard the henhouse, the fossil lobby must be expelled from the conference. Oil states and fossil industries have always prevented anything that could mean an end to coal, oil and gas, and put the brakes on global climate protection for destructive profits. The fossil industry must give way if there is to be any chance of survival for humanity and this planet.” –Michael Bloss, Member of the European Parliament
“At the end of the day, every sector needs to contribute to climate neutrality to keep the 1.5 goal alive. The question here is whether these lobbyists from the fossil industry, who have been well aware of their consequences for years, should be … present at a climate conference, given that most comments from the industry are not much more than greenwashing and very very skeptical to say the least.” –Mohamed Chahim, Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist & Democrats

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