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Tue, May 23, 2023
More than 100 members of the US Congress and the European Parliament have urged the White House and the European Commission to press for the replacement of Sultan al-Jaber of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as president of the UN's COP28 climate conference in Dubai later this year.
Their objections are based on al-Jaber's position as the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) and their view that fossil fuel producers are gaining too much influence in international negotiations to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and limit the steady rise in global temperatures.
Al-Jaber is also the UAE's minister of industry and advanced technology and the former head of its renewable energy company Masdar.
In letter to US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen dated May 23, the US and European lawmakers took aim at Adnoc's plans to expand its oil output, which they said would amount to additional production of 7.6 billion barrels of oil in the coming years.
"With commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process severely jeopardized by having an oil company executive at the helm, we respectfully submit that different leadership is necessary to help ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit," the letter said.
The signatories said more than 600 lobbyists from the oil and gas industry had registered for last year’s COP27 conference, which was an increase of more than 25% over the previous year.
"When the number of attendees representing polluting corporate actors, which have a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo, is larger than the delegations of nearly every country in attendance, it is easy to see how their presence could obstruct climate action," they added.
The letter was also addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
UAE Defends Its Choice
A spokesperson for the UAE's COP28 presidency cited al-Jaber's track record in renewable energy at Masdar and Adnoc's recent investments in renewable electricity and hydrogen as among the credentials that made him the right person to preside over the conference in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec 12.
"We believe that Dr. Sultan’s experience as an engineer, working across the energy spectrum, coupled with his experience as a senior global industry leader, are assets that will help drive the UAE's transformative approach to COP28," the spokesperson said.
Speaking about the conference in Dubai earlier this month, al-Jaber said the time had come to turn pledges to tackle climate change into "practical actions in the real world."
But divisions on display at the COP27 gathering in Egypt about phasing out fossil fuels are expected to resurface, potentially exacerbated by the host nation's status as one of the biggest Opec oil producers.
A European Commission spokesperson told Energy Intelligence on Tuesday that al-Jaber has stated that limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C is a "top priority" for COP28 "and we take him at his word."
The spokesperson said the COP28 presidency is due to visit the commission in early June, adding that "we will hold them to account, and we will not hesitate to express any concerns we have in public or in private."
In January of this year a group of Democratic politicians in the US had already urged Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry to ask the UAE to replace al-Jaber as COP28 president, arguing that it would jeopardize climate progress.
Tuesday’s letter reinforced that pressure, among other things, calling for new guardrails to limit oil and gas companies' influence over the conference by requiring them to disclose their lobbying activity on climate issues and related contributions to political campaigns and trade groups.