by Jenay Randall
The lead up to the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) – a global climate summit where thousands of negotiators came together to assess the progress being made towards tackling climate change – saw special interest groups push against action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions .
While lobbying, the act of influencing legislation, is not unknown to the COP negotiations, this past COP proved to be decisive. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21), when every country agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees while aiming for 1.5 degrees, they were expected to meet every five years with updated plans .
Therefore, the pressure was heightened for nations to deliver on their emissions reduction commitments or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Within this context, the motivation behind climate lobbying becomes evident; this article will expand on what incentivizes special interest lobbying (governments and corporations) and how the interested parties may influence policy outcomes.
Lobbying In The Environmental Policy Context
In the run-up to COP26, a leak of documents revealed that special interest groups, including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia– all big producers of fossil fuels– who made 32 000 submissions asking the UN to minimize the importance of phasing out fossil fuels .
Special interest groups made these submissions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body responsible for evaluating and producing assessment reports on the science of climate change. These reports are integral to the COP negotiations as governments use them to tackle climate change.
The throughline of the lobbyists’ arguments to the IPCC was that the recommended science-based mitigation strategies were exaggerated. For instance, an adviser to the oil ministry in Saudi Arabia – the world’s biggest oil exporter – pleaded for statements stressing the importance of removing urgent action. At the same time, one Australian official denied that climate mitigation necessitates closing coal-fired power plants .
Similarly, Brazil and Argentina–critical players in beef product and animal feed crop production– argued against the evidence that moving towards a relatively more plant-based diet is necessary to meet emissions reduction targets. They even suggested removing the term “plant-based diet”.
The final notable insight gained from the leak is that wealthy countries such as Australia and Switzerland downplay the importance of providing financing to developing countries to meet their targets, despite having agreed at the COP15 in 2009 that developed nations would give them $100bn a year by 2020 .
How Corporate Lobbying Stole COP26
Lobbying efforts do not end with governments. To understand the factors that motivate lobbying and how it works, sometimes secretly, it is helpful to look at how corporate interests influenced the COP26 negotiations.
According to an analysis done by Glasgow Calls Out Polluters and Global Witness, the fossil fuel lobby represents the most influential interest group, surpassing that of any country. Twenty-seven official country delegations registered fossil fuel lobbyists, including Canada, Russia, and Brazil.
Perhaps less ostentatiously, the proposal was drafted with the help of JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock, and BNP Paribas, all of whom are engaged in fossil fuels . This happened even though COP26 was supposed to reform financial markets on the table to discourage financial firms from investing in climate breakdown.
Thus, it can be concluded that special interest groups look out for their financial interest by utilizing the same channels established to put the interests of the environment before those of finance.
References What is a COP? https://ukcop26.org/uk-presidency/what-is-a-cop/ [Accessed on 2nd December 2021].
 COP26: Document leak reveals nations lobbying to change critical climate report https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58982445 [Accessed on 10th December 2021].
 Hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists flooding COP26 climate talks https://corporateeurope.org/en/2021/11/hundreds-fossil-fuel-lobbyists-flooding-cop26-climate-talks [Accessed on 10th December 2021].
 COP26: the biggest finance greenwash event in history https://corporateeurope.org/en/2021/10/cop26-biggest-finance-greenwash-event-history [Accessed on 6th January 2022].