‘Conflict of interest’: Fossil fuel firm CEO is president-designate of UN climate talks; India extends support for successful COP28


NEW DELHI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday appointed the CEO of a major fossil fuel company as the president-designate of this year’s annual UN climate change conference (COP28) to be held in Dubai in November-December. The move where a serving oil company chief – Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC) – will preside over the global climate talks for the first time in the history of the conference has drawn criticism from civil society organisations and observers of the multilateral processes on climate from across the globe.
The host nation of the 28th session of the mega UN climate talks has, however, defended the decision with the spokesperson for COP28 UAE saying Al Jaber’s experience uniquely positions him to be able to convene both the public and private sector to bring about “pragmatic solutions” to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Al Jabel has a long career serving as a diplomat, minister and business leader across the energy and renewables industry, including as the founding CEO of Masdar, a global renewable energy leader, and ADNOC. He also served twice as a special envoy for climate change and participated in negotiations for his country. He is, in fact, the first working CEO to ever serve as COP president.
India, being a key member of different developing countries’ groups at the climate talks forum, congratulated Al Jaber for his appointment. “Both India and the UAE have been world leaders in working on climate change. We assure India’s full support for a successful COP28,” tweeted environment minister Bhupender Yadav.
Calling Al Jaber’s appointment an “interesting development”, TERI’s distinguished fellow and India’s former climate negotiator, R R Rashmi, said, “UAE is an Opec member country with an ambition to achieve net zero-carbon goal by 2050 while simultaneously sustaining oil production. In the backdrop of deepening climate crisis, the choice of COP president is apparently guided by UAE’s keenness to skillfully balance the conflicting goals of its oil-based economy with those of global goals of reducing emissions and addressing climate change.
“However, the solutions such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) espoused by the oil industry of which ADNOC CEO is a representative are rather controversial and less convincing.”
Serving as COP28 President-designate, Al Jaber will work on finalising the agenda of the annual conference, in partnership with the UNFCCC’s executive secretary Simon Stiell and the Egyptian COP27 President Sameh Shoukry.
Commenting on his appointment, Al Jaber, through a statement sought to clear doubts over the effectiveness of the COP28 presidency of the oil-rich nation, said he’ll take an inclusive approach and bring the world together in one “shared mission to keep 1.5 degree Celsius (goal) alive and protect the planet” for the future generations.
The oil-rich UAE has a huge per capita carbon footprint. The country is the world’s fourth largest per capita carbon emitter behind Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the country is the seventh-largest fossil fuel producer in the world with huge export revenues.

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