The UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma dodged questions on Thursday when asked why some of the world’s largest oil and gas and energy companies have been absent from the UN climate talks in Glasgow.

Speculation has been mounting about the exact reasons for oil and gas companies such as Shell, BP, TotalEnergies and Eni — all of which also have substantial renewable and low-carbon investments — having little or no formal presence on the sidelines of the inter-governmental summit.

Not on the guest list

It follows claims last week by Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden that the supermajor had been told “we were not welcome” at the conference.

Sharma was asked in a press conference if Van Beurden, BP's Bernard Looney, TotalEnergies' Patrick Pouyanne and Eni's Claudio Descalzi — "the gentlemen who are perhaps controlling most of European energy at the moment, were welcome or not"?

Sharma responded that “various mechanisms” are in place for “people being accredited delegates” to enter the UN-controlled Blue Zone, where the main talks are taking place alongside fringe and cultural events.

“The UK presidency is not controlling who comes to the Blue Zone,” Sharma added, before changing the subject to talk about pledges unveiled earlier on Thursday at COP26 to phase out coal.

Another COP26 exhibition site nearby called the Green Zone, being managed by the UK government, is open to the general public.

The Guardian reported earlier that fossil fuel companies were frozen out of fringe events by UK officials.

A COP26 spokesperson told Upstream: "We are working to encourage the innovation and commitment of everyone — people, business, countries, cities and regions — as we move the global economy to net zero emissions. This includes a wide range of energy companies.

"The COP26 presidency is working most closely with organisations that are committed to taking real, positive action and have strong climate credentials.

"This includes companies who have committed to achieving net zero, and have published a plan of action of how they will do this, such as through UN-backed Science Based Targets."

Organisers said there has been a "huge level of interest" for participation within the UK managed spaces at COP26 and due to the large number of proposals submitted not all applicants were successful.

It was announced on the fourth day of business at COP26 that 77 countries have signed a pledge to eliminate the use of coal-fuelled power plants, which produce more than 35% of the world's electricity, and to stop building new ones.

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