UAE used Global Climate Summit to secure $100 billion in oil deals: Investigation reveals

The investigation found that the UAE's Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) sought nearly $100 billion in deals with oil, gas, and petrochemical companies during COP28.

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A new analysis by human rights and anti-corruption group Global Witness has revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) used its position as host of last year’s United Nations climate summit to prioritize fossil fuel interests. The investigation found that the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) sought nearly $100 billion in deals with oil, gas, and petrochemical companies during COP28.

Global Witness’s investigation uncovered that ADNOC, led by CEO Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, used the platform provided by COP28 to negotiate substantial fossil fuel deals. These deals were pursued with companies in at least 12 countries, furthering the interests of the fossil fuel industry despite the summit’s focus on addressing climate change.

Patrick Galey, senior investigator for Global Witness, stated, “Make no mistake, COP28 was hijacked by the interests of the fossil fuel industry.” The analysis showed that ADNOC aimed to secure deals worth nearly $100 billion, highlighting the extensive influence of fossil fuel interests at the climate talks.

Among the significant deals pursued by ADNOC, a notable agreement involved TotalEnergies Marketing Egypt. ADNOC finalized a deal worth $200 million to purchase a 50% stake in the company. This acquisition led to ADNOC jointly operating 240 service stations across Egypt, contributing to record profits in 2023.

In Israel, ADNOC formed a joint venture with BP to buy a 50% stake in NewMed Energy. This deal aimed to expand gas development and marked a significant investment in the region’s energy sector. Additionally, ADNOC sought multiple bids for a stake in Braskem, the largest petrochemical producer in Latin America, which is part-owned by Brazil’s state-run oil and gas producer Petrobras.

ADNOC also finalized deals worth an estimated $17 billion with Lukoil in Russia and Wintershall in Germany to develop the Hail and Ghasha gas field in the UAE. These agreements exemplify the extensive reach and ambition of ADNOC’s fossil fuel investments during COP28.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber previously denied that ADNOC used COP28 to further its business interests. However, leaked briefing documents instructed the company to discuss fossil fuel deals with at least 16 states present at the talks. According to Global Witness, ADNOC sought deals with at least 11 of those countries and at least one other not included in the leaked documents.

The investigation’s findings have prompted significant international response. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced Spain’s decision to join the International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide case against Israel, citing the need to address ongoing military operations in Gaza. “We take the decision because of the ongoing military operation in Gaza. We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East, and for that to happen we must all support the court,” Albares stated.

The revelations from Global Witness have raised concerns about conflicts of interest and the integrity of climate policy discussions. Climate campaigners have expressed alarm at the influence of fossil fuel interests at COP28, emphasizing the need for stricter guidelines to prevent such conflicts.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) led 24 Democratic lawmakers in writing to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House Senior Advisor John Podesta. The lawmakers urged support for conflict of interest guidelines ahead of COP29, scheduled to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan. They emphasized the importance of preventing fossil fuel interests from undermining future climate negotiations.

The upcoming COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan, has already sparked concerns due to the involvement of Mukhtar Babayev, the country’s ecology and natural resources minister, who has a long history with the state-owned oil and gas company SOCAR. Global Witness warned that the UAE’s approach to COP28 could serve as a blueprint for other petrostates to influence climate negotiations.

Global Witness highlighted plans to partially privatize SOCAR ahead of COP29, which could attract foreign investments and further entrench fossil fuel interests in the climate talks. The organization emphasized the need for transparency and accountability to ensure that future climate summits prioritize genuine climate action over corporate profits.

Global Witness’s investigation has shed light on the extensive fossil fuel deals pursued by ADNOC during COP28, raising significant concerns about the integrity of climate policy discussions.

Patrick Galey of Global Witness stated, “COP28 seems to have provided other petrostates with a sinister playbook to copy and paste from.” 

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