COP28 president caught in oil lobbying scandal: Secretly pushes fossil fuel agenda amidst climate leadership

This conflict of interest, uncovered through an investigation by the Center for Climate Reporting (CCR), raises serious questions about the integrity of the UN climate summit leadership.

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Image Credit: John MacDougall/Pool Photo via AP, File

In a startling revelation that has sent shock waves through the climate change community, Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the upcoming COP28 climate summit, has been exposed for using his influential position to foster oil trade deals. This conflict of interest, uncovered through an investigation by the Center for Climate Reporting (CCR) in collaboration with the BBC, raises serious questions about the integrity of the UN climate summit leadership.

The investigation, which involved meticulously analyzing over 150 pages of leaked internal briefings, reveals that Al Jaber, who also serves as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), has been engaging in discussions aimed at boosting Adnoc’s oil and gas business during meetings ostensibly focused on the climate summit. These documents provide an unprecedented look into the private discussions between Al Jaber and senior government figures, revealing a disturbing blending of climate diplomacy and business lobbying.

Al Jaber’s dual role as COP28 president and head of a major oil company has been a point of contention since his appointment. The leaked documents now confirm fears that he has been leveraging his role at the summit to further commercial interests in the fossil fuel industry. According to the briefings prepared ahead of these high-level meetings, Al Jaber planned to raise commercial interests with nearly 30 countries. This revelation starkly contrasts with the expectations of impartiality and commitment to reducing global emissions that come with the leadership of such a significant international environmental event.

The response from various countries to these revelations has been a mix of denials and silence. Several nations have outright denied discussing commercial interests with Al Jaber, despite evidence to the contrary in the form of detailed briefings prepared ahead of their meetings. This lack of transparency and conflicting statements add to the concerns about the credibility of diplomatic processes surrounding the climate summit.

The COP28 team, in response to the allegations, has neither denied nor confirmed the use of bilateral meetings for business discussions. They have, however, acknowledged Al Jaber’s multiple roles, emphasizing the public knowledge of his positions while declining to comment on the specifics of private meetings. Internal emails and meeting records, as revealed by the investigation, indicate a significant overlap between the summit’s activities and corporate interests, particularly those of Adnoc and Masdar, another company Al Jaber is involved with.

Experts in climate politics and former COP leaders have criticized Al Jaber’s actions as undermining trust in the COP presidency. Prof Michael Jacobs from Sheffield University and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, president of the COP20 summit, have highlighted the incompatibility of representing national or commercial interests while leading a UN process aimed at reducing global emissions. This breach of trust could potentially jeopardize the effectiveness of the COP28 summit in fostering substantive climate action.

The implications of Al Jaber’s actions extend beyond ethical concerns. They pose a threat to the global commitment to transition away from fossil fuels and combat climate change. With the world already facing the urgent task of mitigating global warming, the potential influence of a major oil company within the leadership of a UN climate summit raises critical questions about the commitment to this transition and the integrity of global climate negotiations.

As the international community prepares for the COP28 summit, these revelations underscore the need for greater transparency and accountability in climate leadership. Ensuring that those leading the conversation on climate change are free from conflicts of interest is crucial for the success of global efforts to combat the climate crisis. The world is watching closely, and the future of international climate action may hinge on how the COP28 summit addresses these concerns and ensures the integrity of its leadership.

The allegations against Sultan Al Jaber represent a critical challenge to the credibility of the COP28 summit and the broader climate change dialogue. It is imperative for global leaders and organizations to reaffirm their commitment to impartiality and transparency in addressing the climate crisis. The integrity of future climate summits and the trust in those leading them are at stake.

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