Sultan al-Jaber still has a few days to "save" his COP28, the 28th climate conference of the parties to be held in the United Arab Emirates next November and of which al-Jaber is president. Controversy rages around the Emirati businessman chosen in January by Abu Dhabi leaders to lead the most important climate event of 2023. His appointment had aroused amazement (among activists, but not only) from the beginning: Sultan al-Jaber must lead the negotiations between almost 200 countries for the decarbonisation of their respective economies, while he continues to sit in the chair of CEO of Adnoc, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Can an oil tanker lead the fight against fossil fuels, the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions? "It would be like entrusting Big Tobacco with the task of eliminating cigarettes," commented the German Green MEP Michael Bloss.
And just Bloss is one of the 130 US and European deputies who last week they signed a documentaddressed to US President Biden, to the President of the European Commission Von der Leyen, to the UN Secretary General Guterres, to the Executive Secretary Stiell of the UNFCC (the UN agency that organizes the COP on the climate), in which, without too many words , they exhort “… a ask the UAE to withdraw the appointment of Sultan Al Jaberhead of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as COP28 President-designate”.
"The decision to appoint the CEO of one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world as president of COP28a company that recently announced plans to add 7.6 billion barrels of oil to its production over the next few years, the fifth-largest increase in the world. risks undermining the negotiations”, reads the letter from the American and European parliamentarians. “To help restore public trust in the COPs, a trust severely undermined by having an oil company executive at the helm, we respectfully advocate that different leadership is neededto ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit”.
The appeal was promoted by Sheldon WhitehouseDemocratic Senator from Rhode Island, and represents the tip of the iceberg of a widespread discontent among "green" associations and politicians all over the world. To the point that the Financial Times already today it is asked whether, with these premises, COP28 next November is not an announced failure.
Cop28, an oilman cannot save us from the climate crisis
by Nicolas Lozito
However, not all champions of climate policies have stigmatized the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber as president of the UN Conference to be held in Dubai. Be the Vice-President of the European Commission Timmermans that the White House climate special envoy Kerrythey have had words of encouragement for the Emirati tanker. But it's likely just realpolitik: given the stalemate of the latest Cops, it is better to wink at the "PetroStates" by aiming for a compromiserather than engage in a sterile tug of war with them.
For his part, al-Jaber has already clarified the line: he will lead Cop28 not by aiming to exit from fossil fuels, but toreduction of CO emissions2 produced from coal, oil and gas. Which is the theory of all companies oil and gas of the world. And which could also be transformed into practice, if only CO capture and storage technologies2 were efficient enough. But this goal seems decidedly far away today.
That is why there are those who are calling for al-Jaber's resignation, such as the 130 signatories of the document promoted by US Senator Whitehouse. And who hopes for a change of course that will save COP28 from bankruptcy. A few days remain, as it was said: The Bonn Climate Change Conference will take place from 5 to 15 June, approaching stage to Dubai. And on that occasion Sultan al-Jaber is expected to make a U-turn that will free him from the image of a staunch defender of the oil lobby.
Image that in the meantime his staff is retouching with interventions on the Wikipedia pages concerning Cop28 and its president. According to Guardianmembers of the al-Jaber team, and users paid by the same team, would have modified the two entries, eliminating the most critical passages and adding laudatory ones: "al-Jaber is exactly the kind of ally that the climate movements needed" . Just a few more days and, at the Bonn conference, we will know if this is really the case.