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Fossil fuel firms given more access to ministers than renewable energy organisations

Fossil fuel companies enjoy far greater access to government ministers than renewable energy companies or climate campaigns, an analysis by The Guardian has revealed.

Shell, the fossil fuel multinational, has had at least 112 meetings with ministers since the last general election, and its rival, BP, at least 79 meetings.

This vastly outweighs the number of meetings ministers granted to renewable energy companies.

Twenty-three leading companies and two trade organisations in the renewable sector were given a combined total of 119 meetings with ministers over the same period.

The analysis found at least 230 meetings with Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Total, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and trade organisation Oil & Gas UK during the same time.

Shell and BP together secured more than twice as many meetings with ministers as two of their most well-known adversaries, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which had 67 meetings between them.

The scale of the lobbying is revealed in a database of meetings that ministers in four Whitehall departments – energy and climate change, the environment, business, and the Treasury – have had with outside organisations.

The Guardian’s database has been drawn from official registers of meetings recorded by Whitehall between May 2010 and June 2014, the most recent declarations.

However, the registers make public only uninformative descriptions of what was discussed in the meetings, stating, for example, that they talked about “energy policy” or “business”.

After the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed their coalition in May 2010, Shell was the first company through the door to have an “introductory” meeting with Chris Huhne, the then-secretary of state for climate change and energy.

During the lifetime of the government, its executives were able to promote the multinational’s interests on a range of issues ranging from climate change to tax.

In two months, July and October 2011, Shell saw ministers at least eight times. That year the company’s responsibility for oil spills in Nigeria was frequently in the news, as were its interests in Iraq, Kurdistan and Libya.

The database showed that more of the meetings that Shell and BP had with ministers were on their own (43 and 33 respectively) compared with Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, which had 14 and 11 meetings respectively on their own.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change said it would not comment while the general election was taking place.

How The Guardian calculated the number of meetings

Every department publishes a record of ministers’ meetings with external organisations, usually published every quarter. The Guardian downloaded all of these since the coalition came to power, 116 documents in all. The information was turned into a database listing every meeting and organisation.

Organisations can either meet with a minister one on one or as part of a larger group. Often, several organisations take part in the same meeting. For example, BP met ministers 79 times and Shell 112 times, but Shell and BP had 165 meetings together with ministers. This is because Shell was present in some of the 79 meetings that BP had, and vice versa.

This affects the totals when the figures for individual organisations are added together.

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