In a surprising turn of events at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), currently held in Dubai, the world witnesses a record influx of fossil fuel lobbyists gaining access to the crucial talks. The UAE-hosted summit accommodates about 2,456 delegates connected to oil and gas industries.

Their presence has sparked widespread criticism from climate activists and organisations.

The Climate Action Network, the globe’s largest coalition of climate non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has drawn attention to the statistics surrounding the presence of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28. According to the network, there are now more fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance than delegates from the ten most climate-vulnerable countries combined. The number of lobbyists surpasses the count of official Indigenous representatives by over seven times.

Climate Action Network International posted on X: “You don’t bring arsonists to a firefighting convention—or the climate talks, for that matter—but that’s precisely what is happening here at #COP28. Big Polluter interference in climate negotiations is costing millions of people their homes, livelihoods & lives.”

Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, weighed in on the issue, urging a change in approach. Berman also took to X: “Unbelievable. 2400 oil, gas, and coal lobbyists here at #COP28. 400% increase. And we wonder why we can’t get strong agreements that constrain fossil fuels responsible for the rise in extreme weather, floods, fires, droughts? Stop negotiating with them and start regulating them.”

The Green New Deal Rising movement, comprising young activists advocating for climate justice, has also voiced its concerns. Linking the record-high temperatures and emissions to the surge in fossil fuel lobbyists, the movement warns that the current systems are breaking records for all the wrong reasons. The movement’s statement reads: “Record high temperatures. Record high emissions. Record high number of fossil fuel lobbyists at the UN climate summit. These facts are not disconnected. Our current systems are breaking records for all the wrong reasons.”