* Emails reveal attempts by BP, Shell and Equinor to sponsor COP26 climate summit and influence its agenda behind the scenes

* Alok Sharma urged to rule out fossil fuel industry from selection process for COP26 sponsorship deals

* Campaigners vow to oust big polluters from climate negotiations

For analysis of what the materials reveal and links to the original sources, go to https://cultureunstained.org/bigoilpushtosponsorcop/

Emails and meeting notes made public today by the campaigns and research organisation Culture Unstained reveal how major oil and gas companies have pushed to influence and sponsor the COP26 climate summit over the last year, despite organisers only launching their official call for sponsors in August.

The UK government’s COP Unit has set out perhaps the toughest criteria yet for sponsors of a UN climate summit, indicating that applicants must be ‘leaders in their industry, driving positive change and innovation towards a lower carbon world’ (1), but these emails reveal a backchannel between oil companies and officials that could compromise the UK’s attempts to show climate leadership.

Campaigners are now calling on President of COP26 Alok Sharma to explicitly rule out partnerships with fossil fuel companies. A report last week made clear that no major oil and gas company has adopted a “serious climate plan aligned with the Paris goals”. (2)

The documents, released following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, reveal that oil giants Equinor, Shell and BP have been in close talks with UK government officials for many months, discussing sponsorship and other forms of partnership around the Covid-delayed summit scheduled for November 2021. They show how:

* Norwegian oil giant Equinor has had in-depth meetings with the COP Unit and was brazenly pushing for a sponsorship deal in emails to civil servants last October:

“If I was to ask you – ball park – how much money you would like from us, for what, and with what visibility for us, what would you say?”

* During a 2-week period in March, BP discussed its involvement in COP26 at four separate meetings across government, including over lunch with Minister for Business Kwasi Kwarteng, where notes recorded how:

”[BP] really want to be involved [in COP26] and [is] keen to work with government.
[BP is] currently meeting with several different people from all across government.”

* Shell has been seeking to ‘partner’ with the government on COP since July 2019 and raised COP26 over dinner with the UK Ambassador in the Hague.

For an in-depth analysis of what the FOI materials reveal, and links to the original sources, go to https://cultureunstained.org/bigoilpushtosponsorcop/

In response, a coalition of climate organisations including Culture Unstained, 350.org, Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, Polluters Out, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Corporate Europe Observatory have launched a petition today calling on Alok Sharma and the COP Unit to:

* Publicly rule out fossil fuel companies as sponsors because they are responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and are continuing to invest in fossil fuel extraction.

* Ensure that no big polluters – or companies facilitating other forms of environmental destruction – are included as sponsors of the COP.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, a member of Pukatawagan Cree Nation who has attended many previous UN Climate Summits, commented:

“The role that oil companies have played through their sponsorship of past UN climate summits has been almost as destructive and problematic as the role of the US in terms of blocking any kind of meaningful global compact on reducing carbon emissions. These companies paint themselves as good corporate citizens when in truth they’re directly responsible for the global climate crisis and catastrophic impacts on local ecosystems, Indigenous peoples and their rights.

“Big Oil must not be allowed to participate in any context that skews or creates confusion about the fact they will soon be held accountable in courts of law around the world. The Paris Agreement preamble lifts Indigenous peoples up in theory, and yet they are not given a seat at the table and there are no guarantees of their rights. The players that have had the most influence historically have been big oil companies, financial institutions, carbon traders and the World Bank. COP26 must be different.”

Ric Lander, Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland:

“Oil companies are profiting from climate inaction. Today’s revelations show how desperate they are to continue to frustrate the zero carbon transition to protect their bottom line. They cannot be allowed to succeed.

“Fossil fuel companies aren’t building the future, they are destroying it. They have no place at the UN climate talks.

“Instead of listening to polluters the UN, UK and Scottish Governments should be taking leadership from those on the front lines of climate chaos: Pacific peoples facing rising seas, communities destroyed by wildfires, unions representing ignored workers in the transition.

“The climate and COVID-19 crises demand a Just Transition away from the use of oil and gas to a healthy and sustainable economy – in Scotland, the UK and across the world.

“The UK and Scottish Governments should shut polluters out of COP26 and fund a just and green recovery that brings prosperity and security to people and planet.”

Dr Chris Garrard, Co-director of Culture Unstained, said:

“The cynical motives of the fossil fuel industry have once again been laid bare. Whether it is by sponsoring museums or the crucial COP26 climate negotiations, these companies are more bothered about looking green than genuinely shifting their businesses away from fossil fuels as the climate emergency – and the Paris Climate Agreement – demands. The list of cultural organisations and institutional investors cutting ties to oil companies is growing fast. With COP26 delayed, Alok Sharma and the COP Unit must now draw the same ethical red line. Otherwise it will be showing the world that it is siding with major polluters before the talks even begin.”

This is just the latest in a long line of push-backs and protests against major polluters’ involvement in the climate negotiations, many of which faced clampdowns at previous summits.

Last year, an activist-led “toxic tour” of polluters sponsoring COP25 in Madrid was halted by police and many were outraged when coal and gas companies were invited by the Polish Government to sponsor the COP24 talks in Katowice the previous year. (3) Similar protests were rapidly shut down by undercover police during the Paris climate summit in 2015.

Leading cultural institutions are continuing to cut their ties to fossil fuel sponsorship. In just the last year, the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Galleries Scotland cut their ties to BP and oil firm Shell’s long-running relationships with the National Theatre, Southbank Centre and British Film Institute have all now been ended.


1. UK Government criteria for COP26 sponsors

2. Report showing how oil companies are not compliant with the Paris climate treaty

3. Fossil fuel companies at COP25

4. Culture Unstained are a research, engagement and campaigning organisation which aims to end fossil fuel sponsorship of culture.

5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.