COP28: “shocking” or “helpful”? Appointment of CEO of oil giant Emirates splits

The appointment of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, CEO of the first oil company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as head of COP28 does not appear to have led to a consensus. In addition to leading ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) and Masdar, a renewable energy company, Sultan Al Jaber is Industry Minister and Special Envoy for Climate Change. According to a press release issued this Thursday, January 12 by the official news agency WAM, he will be the first CEO to chair a UN climate conference. The COP, hosted in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, will conduct the first global assessment of the evolution and implementation of the Paris Agreement. But the appointment of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber has many climate experts cringing.

Because despite his significant commitment to fighting global warming in recent years – he has already led the Emirates delegation to two previous COPs, including a delegation of a thousand participants – many experts denounce the “scandalous conflict of interest”, as Tasnim Essop, director of Climate Action Network International. “Ahmed al-Jaber cannot lead an organization responsible for fighting the climate crisis when he is in charge of an industry that is itself responsible for the crisis,” she said. Asked by L’Express, political scientist François Gueminne, co-author of the IPCC report and author of Environment Is Not Consensus (Editions Fayard, 2022), believes the new president should even “resign to avoid any conflict of interest.” Other risks associated with such an appointment include “greenwashing” and delaying negotiations. Because, in the words of François Gueminne, “the best way to slow down or derail discussions about climate is to organize a conference yourself.”

Major oil exporter

At a time when the goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, other experts such as Rachel Kite, professor of sustainability and dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in the US, believe we can no longer afford it. . develop fossil fuels. The country of the Persian Gulf, which is one of the main oil exporters in the world, stands up for the gradual abandonment of hydrocarbons. However, he estimates that by 2030 the oil and gas industry will need more than $600 billion a year to meet demand.

The Emirates sent the largest contingent of industry lobbyists to COP27 in November in Egypt. The publication that led to the adoption of a resolution to compensate the poorest countries for the damage caused by climate change. But he has failed to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to maintain the goal of limiting global warming. And the issue of less use of fossil fuels was hardly mentioned in the texts.

“We cannot organize the CC only between virtuous countries”

Thus, for the COP28 presidency, the challenge will be to succeed in uniting the various countries around stronger and more effective action, “while suggesting to some that production be stopped under the pretext that there is enough production in the UAE,” comments But we more there is no time for conflicting messages” from Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who assures us that the UAE will bring a “pragmatic, realistic and solution-oriented approach”. Even going so far as to admit that “the fight against climate change is a huge economic opportunity to invest in sustainable growth. Funding is the key.”

Environmental and climate specialist François Gueminne has a more nuanced view of the appointment. “While it may seem laughable or even shocking, it can be helpful. We cannot organize COP only between virtuous countries, it is important that fossil fuel producing countries sit down at the negotiating table in order to move forward faster,” he said. The final element to consider is that if al-Jaber’s influence as president of COP28 is significant, only the 195 countries of the conference will be able to make a decision together.

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