The ultimate goal of COP28, or the 28th session of the Conference of Parties, could be stalled after the chief of state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has been selected to lead this year’s UN brokered-climate talks scheduled in the latter part of the year.
According to the Manila-based think tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), the representation of the COP presidency by a leader of the global petroleum industry is “clearly problematic,” ICSC Deputy Executive Director Angelo Kairos dela Cruz said via email.
Sultan Al Jaber, head of the world’s twelfth-largest oil company by production, will be responsible as the COP28 President for holding governments and the fossil fuel industry accountable to global climate goals to limit warming to 1.5°C, which entails, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an immediate end to all new oil and gas extraction projects.
“There can be no doubt the intention is to stymie progress in the talks to make fossil industry companies accountable to the global public,” dela Cruz added.
While the group recognized that it is the right and privilege of the UAE—as the host country to appoint the COP28 leadership—“the ultimate barometer is how closely the Dubai round of talks will be measured to its adherence to implementing and advancing the Paris Agreement.”
With this, ICSC intends to closely engage the UAE leadership of COP28 to make sure it tackles “the increasingly serious diplomatic challenge of addressing climate change now and for the long term.”
“And as with previous COPs, it is just as vital to remind everyone concerned that decisive, strategic climate action—or the lack thereof—is the responsibility of all stakeholders who see the climate crisis as the most critical challenge humanity has ever faced.
“It’s not just the UAE leadership that bears this weight. We need to make sure our respective governments and institutions deliver what the youth of today expect,” added dela Cruz.
Separately, Global Policy manager at Oil Change International (OCI) Romain Ioualalen commented that the appointment risks further undermining the credibility of global climate talks and threatens the action and leadership needed for a rapid and equitable phase out of all fossil fuels.
“This is a truly breathtaking conflict of interest and is tantamount to putting the head of a tobacco company in charge of negotiating an anti-smoking treaty… The reality is that the climate talks will be run by the CEO of a company betting on climate failure. These are the worst possible credentials for an upcoming COP President,” said Ioualalen.
Based on OCI’s recent research, the UAE is poised to become the third largest expander of oil and gas production between 2023 and 2025. ADNOC’s new oil and gas production over the next three years would lock in over 2.7 Gt of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to one year of the European Union’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.