Press Release: Civil Society sends a message to Alok Sharma: Keep polluters out of COP26

25 March 2021

Press Release by GCOP

Today, over 170 grassroots groups from the UK and across the globe are demanding that the UK government force a change in the normal proceedings of the UN climate negotiations by removing big polluters’ access to the talks

Ahead of the UK’s role as hosts of the COP26 United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow in November 2021, an open letter initiated by the campaign group Glasgow Calls Out Polluters has been sent to UK Government Minister and COP26 President, Alok Sharma. The letter, signed by over 170 groups from across the world, lays out five steps the UK Government can take to kick out big corporations who are most responsible for the climate crisis

The letter demands that these polluting groups are denied access to both COP26 and all UN climate talks going forward under what is known as a Conflict of Interest Policy*. There is precedent for removing parties whose financial interests have a malign effect on global negotiations, with big tobacco companies excluded from World Health Organisation talks. The letter also calls on the UK Government to refuse sponsorship from polluting groups, and they urge the event hosts to reject so-called false solutions that are favoured by corporate actors.

The presence of large fossil fuel based corporations has been a feature of previous UN climate negotiations and there have been demonstrations from civil society on this issue. There has also been criticism of the slow progress of the talks themselves, throwing their ability to deliver climate action into question.

Isla Scott, a representative of Glasgow Calls Out Polluters, said that: 

“The UN Climate Talks have for too long protected business as usual at the expense of meaningful action and now people across the world are living with the consequences. This letter sends a clear message that big polluters – whose profits are dependent on inaction – have no place influencing the talks. The UK Government, if they take the climate crisis seriously, should stand up to these vested interests and remove them from the talks.” 

Following the Coronavirus pandemic, COP26 was delayed from November 2020 to November 2021. The UK Government has sought to position themselves as being at the forefront of climate ambition. However, in recent months they have legislated for a controversial cut on domestic air passenger duty, accepted a proposed coal mine in Cumbria (before putting the decision under review following widespread criticism) and delayed action on the UK Environment Bill.

Signatory to the letter, Eilidh Robb of UK Youth Climate Coalition added that:

“Although we’ve all become pretty accustomed to delayed events recently, that is no excuse for the UK government to remain asleep at the wheel on climate action. To speed things up we need to stop the preferential treatment of large polluters, by clearing the space to make room for people-centered solutions to climate change.”

There are still 220 days until COP26 and the preparatory intersessional sessions are yet to take place. This, campaigners believe, gives the UK Government ample time to push a conflict of interest policy.