Main menu


UAE sparks backlash by naming oil chief as president

featured image

In a statement confirming his appointment as COP28 President-designate, Al Jaber said: “The UAE is approaching COP28 with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition.”

AFP | Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates announced on Thursday that the head of state-owned oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the world’s largest oil companies, will lead the COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year.

The appointment of Sultan al-Jaber as COP28 chair-designate sparked an angry reaction from climate activists and civil society groups. Many have called for the oil chief to step down as ADNOC CEO, saying it represents a clear conflict of interest with his position at COP28.

Al-Jaber’s office – who also serves as the UAE’s industry and technology minister and the country’s climate envoy – said it would play a key role in intergovernmental talks to reach consensus at the conference.

The UAE, the third largest producer in the OPEC oil alliance, will host the UN-brokered climate talks from November 30 to December 12.

This nomination goes beyond putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Theresa Anderson

Global Climate Justice Leader at ActionAid

In a statement confirming his appointment, al-Jaber said: “The UAE is approaching COP28 with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition.”

“Pragmatism and constructive dialogue must be at the forefront of our progress,” he added.

Al-Jaber’s office said the minister has played a “proactive participatory role” in more than 10 COP summits and brings to his role two decades of business and leadership experience in government, climate policy and in the renewable and renewable energy sectors. .

The designation triggered a wave of international criticism:

“This appointment goes beyond putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” said Teresa Anderson, global climate justice lead at ActionAid, a development charity.

“The UN Climate Summit should be a place where the world holds polluters accountable, but increasingly [it’s] being hijacked by those with opposing interests. As at last year’s summit, we are increasingly seeing fossil fuel interests taking control of the process and shaping it to suit their own needs,” said Anderson.

‘Full-scale capture of UN climate talks’

Tasneem Essop, head of the Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 civil society groups, said al-Jaber “cannot preside over a process charged with addressing the climate crisis with such a conflict of interests”.

In comments quoted by The Guardian, Essop added that al-Jaber’s appointment was “equivalent to a full-scale capture of the UN climate talks by a national oil company petrostate and its associated fossil fuel lobbyists”.

COPs “have always been circuses. Now they are complete jokes,” Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate risk at University College London, said via Twitter.

“We need separate permanent bodies focusing on energy, transport, deforestation, loss and damage, etc., working all year round,” he added. “Not this bloated festival of photo shoots by world leaders and oil executives.”

Asked about a response to the criticism, a spokesman for the UAE’s Office of the Special Envoy on Climate Change told CNBC that al-Jaber’s experience “uniquely positions him to be able to convene the public and private sectors to bring pragmatic solutions to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

They added: “The UAE is committed to an inclusive COP process, with the COP Chair acting as a global convener. The UAE COP Chair works with all parties and is committed to being open, transparent and accountable. .”

A spokesman for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was not immediately available for comment.

First global balance sheet since the Paris agreement

Last year’s November COP27 conference in Egypt saw a sharp jump in the number of attendees associated with the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants. It was described at the time as a “twisted joke” that represented the fossil fuel industry’s ability to influence proceedings.

The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the main driver of the climate emergency.

Why poorer countries want rich countries to foot their climate change bill

The upcoming COP28 summit will be the first global assessment since the landmark Paris Agreement. The 2015 agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Beyond that critical temperature ceiling, it becomes more likely that small changes could trigger dramatic shifts in Earth’s entire life support system.

The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to ratify the Paris agreement and committed to achieving net zero emissions by mid-century.