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A word from our sponsors

by gwcmag

Alongside BCG is a company called SalesForce, which describes itself, on its website, as a ‘customer relationship management solution’, whatever the hell that is. It doesn’t take much browsing to discover that, like BCG, SalesForce has close links with the oil and gas sector.

Step down another level and we have what are called conference ‘Providers’, although it is not clear just what they are providing. The UK government has only managed to attract one provider so far, but what a provider. DLA Piper is a law firm with considerable involvement with the fossil fuel industry.

Astonishingly, it actually boasts on its website about ‘achieving victory’ for the Central New York Oil and Gas Company in a case that cleared the way for development of the US$257 million Marcellus Shale gas pipeline project in the Appalachians.


Unusually, for a conference, COP26 has so-called ‘Friends’ as well as partners and providers. It is not clear whether those invited to be friends need to pay for the privilege or not. Given that a number are academics and NGO representatives are on board, it seems unlikely.

The role of the Friends of COP is, it seems, to advise the UK government and inspire action from their sectors ahead of the conference. 

When I spotted the name of Sir Ian Cheshire amongst the list of friends I thought, initially, that it must be some sort of joke or a case of mistaken identity. But no, the non-executive director of Barclays plc and Chairman of Barclays Bank, UK is pictured in full glory.

My belief has never been so beggared. Barclays is one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel bankers, and the biggest in Europe. It is the largest non-US funder of fracking, and has increased its funding of the fracking sector by almost a quarter since 2019.


Over the last five years, it is also one of the biggest non-Chinese funders of the coal industry. In total, Barclays pumped a staggering US$144 billion into the fossil fuel sector between 2016 and 2020.

It took me a while to get my head around this and to try and figure out what the hell is going on. COP26 is arguably the most important meeting in the history of humankind, yet it apparently counts a leading representative of one of the world’s biggest investors in carbon pollution as a friend, and welcomes other companies with dismal environmental records on board.

The answer lies in the fact that sponsors appear to be invited and appointed by the UK Government, I assume with no involvement from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which organises the COP meetings.

This explains a great deal. In it’s usual slap-dash way, my assumption is that the government has simply taken the corporate dollar and asked no questions. There can’t surely, have been any real and effective vetting procedure, given who has been allowed on board. As for due diligence, either there has been none, or the government simply does not care about the climate-clobbering activities of those it has appointed as sponsors.


Even before it begins, the involvement of such corporations and individuals is in danger of devaluing the whole event. It allows them to hijack this critical meeting as an opportunity for green-washing, to access and rub shoulders with key decision makers, and to influence the agenda.

Most of those I have mentioned are also slated to host public events in the conference ‘green zone’, where they will have the opportunity to pull more wool over the eyes of those watching and listening.

It really is despicable, and an awful look, to have the names of those who are part of the problem rather than the solution on board. It should be in the power of the UNFCCC to decide who can participate as sponsors and contributors – based upon real green credentials – and not Boris and his mates.

I doubt that the choice of supporters is part of any hidden agenda or plan to embarrass the organisers. Far more likely is that it is simply the latest example of the serial incompetence of those currently running the country.

This Author

Bill McGuire is professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at UCL. He was a contributer to the IPCC report on climate change and extreme events. His latest book, Skyseed – an eco-thriller about climate engineering gone wrong – is published by The Book Guild.

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