Oil, chemical industry lobbyists pile in to UN talks to curb plastics

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 3:44 AM

By Valerie Volcovici and Gloria Dickie

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Nearly 200 fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists plan to join this week’s United Nations negotiations on the first global treaty to curb plastic pollution — a 37% jump from the previous gathering in November, an analysis released on Thursday showed.

The jump in registered industry representatives at the talks in Ottawa, Canada, comes as negotiations enter a crucial stage. There is just one round of negotiations left to hammer out a final text that all countries agree on by the end of the year.

The aim is to create a legally binding treaty that would cover the entire lifecycle of plastic, from production to disposal or reuse. But some fossil fuel and petrochemical industry groups, as well as countries that rely on those industries, are opposed to any U.N. treaty that would impose strict production caps or chemical or product phase-outs.

While more than 4,000 people have registered to attend the talks, civil society groups said the heavy presence of representatives of industries that would be the target of new regulations could undermine the negotiation process.

“The presence of actors in the room who are responsible for generating this crisis creates power imbalances that obstruct progress,” said Rachel Radvany, environmental health campaigner at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), which conducted the analysis.

Similar complaints were made about the heavy representation of fossil fuel industry lobbyists at last year’s COP28 climate change talks.

CIEL, a nonprofit law group, used registration data provided by the U.N. Environment Programme, which is overseeing the talks. CIEL counted representatives of oil companies, chemical companies and their trade groups as lobbyists, as well as non-profits or think-tanks that receive significant support from those industries.


Registered fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists — which include representatives from companies such as ExxonMobil and Dow —  outnumber the combined 180 diplomatic representatives of European Union delegations, the analysis found.

Such lobbyists also outnumber the 73 representatives brought by Pacific Small Island Developing States by more than two to one.

“Lobbyists are appearing on country delegations and are gaining privileged access to Member State-only sessions, where sensitive discussions unfold behind closed doors,” CIEL’s global petrochemical campaign coordinator Delphine Levi Alvares said.

Several lobbyists are attached to delegations from Malaysia, Thailand, and Iran, among others.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry group which represents more than 190 companies, has the largest number of registered lobbyists, the analysis found.

The ACC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Gareth Jones)