UAE's COP28 president reportedly lobbied for fossil fuel interests at climate meetings



COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber was willing to raise oil and gas commercial interests during climate meetings with foreign governments ahead of the United Nations summit starting in Dubai later this week, according to a cache of internal records leaked by a whistleblower and published by the British Broadcasting Corp. in collaboration with the Centre for Climate Reporting. 

Al Jaber’s presidency has been controversial because he remains chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., one of the world’s largest oil producers. Today’s report will offer vindication to critics who said his appointment was a conflict of interest.

The documents include over 150 pages of briefings for meetings held by Al Jaber between July and October. Oil and gas commercial interests appear as talking points in these documents, with the reporting showing on at least one occasion a nation followed up on discussions brought up during a meeting with Al Jaber. The documents also included briefings points related to Masdar, the renewable energy company Al Jaber chairs.

‘The documents referred to in the BBC article are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings,” a spokesperson for the COP28 presidency said.  “It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting.”

Over 70,000 people are expected to attend COP28 in Dubai, which starts on Nov. 30 and is scheduled to end on Dec. 12. The largest-ever climate meeting will happen on what’s likely to end up as the hottest year on record and as extreme weather events made worse by greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet wreak havoc on every continent. At the same time, a diplomatic agreement between nations to prevent environmental catastrophe will be harder as countries cope with rapid inflation and instability, including the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. 

When asked about the BBC report, the European Union’s climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra said that countries in the Middle East like the UAE can “no longer hide behind the logic of the past” and need to make sure that fossil fuels are phased out.

“There is no way we can hide or we can slow down our ambition,’’ Hoekstra told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “The focus should be on the climate action, full stop,” he added.

The report describes Al-Jaber apparently planning to lobby Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Marina Silva to help push through Adnoc’s bid for Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem. Silva is an environmentalist and a former candidate for the Green Party in past elections in Brazil. 

“The climate summit leader should be focused on advancing climate solutions impartially, not backroom deals that are fueling the crisis,” Kaisa Kosonen, policy coordinator at Greenpeace International said in an emailed statement. “This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared when the CEO of an oil company was appointed to the role.”

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