COP28, the conference of the world’s leaders, is taking place over two weeks, from November 30 to December 12, hosted by the UAE in Expo City, Dubai. This event brings together leaders from around the world to agree on how to address climate change. Recently leaked documents from the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) reveal that Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE COP president, had meetings with senior government and business leaders globally in recent months. He allegedly sought to lobby for oil and gas deals during these meetings, under the guise of the UN climate summit.
The briefing documents reveal Al Jaber’s plans to discuss fossil fuel interests with 15 countries, including Germany, the US, and Italy. ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, reportedly made a $2.1 billion offer to buy a key stake in a project, indicating to Germany, “we stand ready to continue our LNG supplies.” In a meeting with Brazil’s Minister of Climate Change, Marina Silva, Al Jaber appears to have planned to push through Adnoc’s bid for a Brazilian petrochemical company called Braskem. The extent of Al Jaber and his team’s use of COP28 meetings with foreign governments to discuss these points is not clear.
Zakia Khattabi, Belgium’s climate minister, stated, “If confirmed, these news reports add to the existing concerns regarding the COP28 presidency. The credibility of United Nations climate negotiations is essential and is at stake here,” according to a Politico report.
Greenpeace’s policy coordinator Kaisa Kosonen commented, “If the allegations are true, this is totally unacceptable and a real scandal. The climate summit leader should be focused on advancing climate solutions impartially, not backroom deals fueling the crisis.”
Professor Michael Jacobs of Sheffield University, an expert on climate politics, described the COP28 president’s actions as “breathtakingly hypocritical.” He shared his views in a report compiled with the BBC, stating, “The UAE is currently the custodian of the UN process aimed at reducing global emissions. Yet, in the same meetings, it is trying to do side deals which will increase global emissions. The proposed projects mentioned in the briefing documents represent new oil and gas developments.” The International Energy Agency, a global watchdog, has stated that to keep temperature rises to the 1.5°C target, new oil and gas development should not be pursued.
The documents leaked by a whistleblower suggest that the UAE team prepared ahead of meetings and that Al Jaber planned to raise commercial interests with at least 30 countries around the world. When a dozen of these countries were contacted by the BBC and CCR, they did not respond to requests for comments, and several countries denied discussing commercial interests with Al Jaber. Internal emails and meeting records seen by CCR raise critical questions about the COP28 team’s independence from Adnoc. The team was told that two companies Al Jaber is involved in running – Adnoc and the UAE state-owned renewable energy company, Masdar – “always need to be included,” according to the emails verified by CCR.
As per the UNFCCC “cardinal principle,” the role of the COP president and their teams is the “obligation of impartiality.” They are expected to act without bias, prejudice, favoritism, self-interest, and deference, strictly based on sound, independent, and fair judgment.