COP26 Polluter Watch

Keeping an eye on climate criminals influencing the UK and Italian Government in the run-up to COP26

Our political institutions have long been in thrall to corporate power. Year after year, when everyone’s political aims should be concerned with tackling the climate crisis, big polluters capture the COP. 

For your viewing pleasure – or your moral disgust – we are keeping an eye on those big bad polluters by recording some of the most shameful attempts to influence the UK and Italian Governments, ahead of the upcoming COP26. And our own Scottish Government, silently compliant, does not have a clean track record either.

We have relied on journalism and intrepid activists to uncover information around big polluter interference at COP26. Obtaining this information on behind closed doors dealings is not easy and subsequently, this document merely scratches the surface of polluter interference at COP26.

So brace yourself, here is our current record of polluters attempting to infiltrate COP26.

If you have a bit of information you’d like to share with us, email us at


🇬🇧 Sir Ian Cheshire is a non-executive director of Barclays, Europe’s largest fossil fuel financing bank. Ian Cheshire is also listed as one of the UK Government Friends of COP26, which is just atrociously inappropriate.



Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

 🇺🇸 Even for the polluter-friendly standards of the COP, hiring a fossil fuel consultancy firm is pretty rare. But the UK Government’s COP26 Unit has gone and done it, giving BCG a consultancy contract until January 2021. The contract has been expanded it seems, with Alok Sharma eulogising their role as partners.

To some BCG might be unknown, but to others they are one of the world’s “Big Three” consulting groups, and according to their own website have worked with 19 of the world’s top 25 oil and gas companies, including some of the usual suspects covered in Polluter Watch. They have also been embroiled controversial projects with the Angolan state oil company (an affair littered with corruption) and the Saudi Government.



🇬🇧  Whilst covered in redactions, some freedom of information requests have uncovered connections between BP and the UK Government around COP26. 

Key Stakeholders

Revelations from Unearthed found that Andrea Leadsom – then UK Energy Secretary – in January 2020 told BP that they would be a “key stakeholder” at COP26. 

BP executives also met the government’s COP26 unit “to discuss how BP could contribute to the presidency”. UK Government officials also proposed to ask what “more we can do” to support BP’s international work. 

The UK Government also promised to support the oil giant’s “business wins” internationally whilst encouraging them to invest in the energy transition. Of course, by energy transition, they meant carbon capture and underground storage (CCUS).

Secret Meetings

As our friends Culture Unstained revealed in the COP Files, BP met with the UK Government 4 times in a two-week period in March 2020. This included a meeting with COP26 President Alok Sharma and a meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The COP Files are heavily redacted but it’s clear that: 

  • BP were incredibly keen to be involved in COP26.
  • BP were keen to link their Net Zero plans (which are already failing the test of time) to COP26. The UK Government was full of praise for BP’s plans. 
  •  BP offered sketchy-sounding support for the UK Government’s diplomatic efforts to “unlock action from key governments”
  •  The UK Cabinet Office were thinking about ways in which BP could engage with COP26. It is unclear at what level they wanted to engage with BP. 

Other Things

BP CEO Bernard Looney sits on the UK Government’s “Build Back Better Council.

As stated by one of BP’s energy economics webcasts, with reference to data generated by the Statistical Review of World Energy 2021, BP’s executive vice president Giulia Chierchia will be joined by Nigel Topping, UN climate action champion for COP26, and Paul Bodnar, managing director and global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to discuss and review the past conferences ahead of the 26th COP in Glasgow this November.



🇮🇹 Eni’s new climate strategy for 2050? Extracting methane and spending public money in greenwashing. 

The Italian giant seems to live up to its British counterparts in the mad race for stakeholding in COP26. By re-styling its strategy to somewhat resemble basic European standards, Eni is committing to nothing more than sheer marketing and blatant indifference which enables it to keep pursuing its dirty business. 

According to a recent investigation by an Italian divestment organisation, there have been undisclosed agreements between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the oil giant Eni reaching back to 2008. These allowed Eni to allocate a number of members of the company to connect diplomatic relations and the big polluter’s interest. 

Since then, the company keeps participating and restating its presence in government affairs, as proven by its recent interference in the ‘Environment and Climate’ direction cabin which aims to address the Italian government’s position in COP26. It is disgraceful that these members are not participating as representatives for their own company, but as actual officials of the Ministry. It is now time to uncover these sneaky immoralities and seriously kick fossil fuel polluters out of climate discussions.



🇳🇴 Oil Giant Equinor are keen for the greenwashing opportunities afforded by COP26. Uncovered in The COP Files, in an email to the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Equinor wrote: 

“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?”

In response, BEIS officials said this to one another:

“Yeah, it’s a bit tricky with the oil and gas sector!! Can you send them a holding message for now saying that [we] note the kind offer and [we] are developing our sponsorship and partnering strategies…”


Oil & Gas UK (OGUK)

🇬🇧  OGUK  – the oil and gas industry lobby group –  lobbied then Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse on getting in touch with the UK Government ahead of COP26, given the industries recently published plans. Then Scottish Govt Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, is on record as supporting OGUK’s completely watered down plans.  

When questioned about this lobbying, and without irony, OGUK said that COP26 was: “the ideal arena for highlighting global climate change leadership”.



🇬🇧  Shell, true to form, are looking to embed themselves in the COP. But the only international arena they should be in is in the Hague…

The COP Files

Again, Culture Unstained’s COP Files unearthed some invaluable information. They found that 3 people from Shell’s team met with UK Ambassador Peter Wilson in October 2019. The documents are heavily redacted, but found that Shell were discussing Carbon Markets around COP26. It is perhaps unsurprising for Shell to be pushing this, given that they claimed to have written some of the Paris Agreement around Carbon Markets. 

The COP Files also found that Shell were openly keen to partner with the UK Government and were discussing responses to protests with the UK Government. However, because the documents are very redacted, it is difficult to discern the specifics of these discussions. 

“Balanced Messaging”

This one is absurd: Shell lobbied then Scottish Government minister Paul Wheelhouse around “balanced messaging” at COP26, perhaps worried about their reputation as a multinational climate criminal. As lobbying expert Will Dinan said to The Ferret: “Shell pushing for balanced messaging is really code for ensuring that business friendly policies are reflected in COP outcomes”

Other topics discussed were indeed business friendly, such as: “the need to highlight the role of the oil and gas industry as a key player in making the energy transition work” and “revenue support for carbon capture and storage”. 

Other Things

Currently, a Shell representative co-chairs the UK Government’s Hydrogen Advisory Council, alongside Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng. 

Shell economists have contributed towards the Committee on Climate Change’s Net Zero strategy and with one contributor to the committee appointments holding shares in Shell.

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