An Emirati oil company is leading the UN climate talks at COP28

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – (AP) – The United Arab Emirates on Thursday appointed the CEO of a state-owned oil company, which oversees renewable energy projects, to chair the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Dubai, drawing criticism from activists. This stresses the budget of this oil producing country.

Officials nominated Sultan Al Jaber, a confidant of UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The company pumps about 4 million barrels of crude oil per day and hopes to expand to 5 million barrels per day.

This income fuels the ambitions of this confederation of seven sheikhdoms in Arabia – as well as the United Nations. It produces carbon dioxide, a heat sink that the negotiations hope to curb.

But Al Jaber once spearheaded an ambitious $22 billion “decarbonized” city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi – an effort that backfired after the 2008 global financial crisis hit the emirate hard. Today he is still the chairman of the board of Mastar, the clean energy company that emerged from the project.

“Sultan Al Jaber has the credentials and background to capitalize on trends that are already underway,” said Ryan Paul, Middle East analyst at risk intelligence firm RANE Network. “Since he’s an oil trader, I don’t think it’s too much of a risk for him.”

The state-run Emirates News Agency, WAM, quoted Al Jaber, 49, as saying the longtime climate ambassador called for a “practical, realistic and solution-oriented approach” to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). restrict. ).. By 2050, scientists say, this limit could avoid or reduce some of the catastrophic damage of future climate change.

But Al Jaber’s appointment drew immediate criticism. Harjit Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action International, said Al Jaber’s tenure as CEO of an oil company presented an “unprecedented and serious conflict of interest”.

“Polluters have no place in the climate conference, especially the COP presidency,” Singh said.

Alice Harrison of Global Witness put it bluntly: “You don’t invite arms dealers to lead the peace talks. Why should oil managers have climate talks? Greenpeace said it was “deeply concerned” by Al-Jaber’s appointment: “It sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens the UAE’s credibility and the trust with which it is placed.”

Every year, the country conducting the UN negotiations, called the Conference of the Parties – this is where the COP gets its name – nominates someone to chair the talks. Since negotiations between competing nations and their interests can be very difficult, the hosts usually choose a senior diplomat. The position of the protester as “COP chair” is confirmed by the delegates at the beginning of the negotiations, usually without objection.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric insisted the UN had “absolutely no involvement” in the selection when asked if Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thought someone linked to fossil fuels should lead COP28.

“However, the science is very clear: We are losing the battle to prevent the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” said Dujarric. “The Secretary-General confirms that there is no way to avoid such a climate catastrophe without ending our addiction to fossil fuels.”

The level of COP leaders has varied over the years. Britain’s Alok Sharma was widely viewed by audiences as energetic and determined to achieve ambitious results.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shawky, on the other hand, has faced criticism from some for the awkward and blunt way he chaired last year’s meeting.

For example, a call for countries including India and the United States to phase out oil and natural gas did not come up for public discussion at a meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where Shoghari dominated the agenda.

Activists worry that the COP, which is being held for the second consecutive year in a Middle Eastern country that relies on fossil fuel sales, could see a similar event in the UAE.

WAM said that Emirates Airlines “has invested more than $50 billion in renewable energy projects in 70 countries and plans to invest at least $50 billion over the next decade.”

Earlier on Friday, a source said it had invested or committed $30 billion in renewable projects. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala has invested $3.9 billion in renewable energy since 2018, according to New York-based research firm Global SWF.

By comparison, Global SWF reports that Mubadala has invested $9.8 billion in oil and gas projects.

The UAE has a large solar park in Dubai, as well as the Barakah nuclear power plant, the only source of nuclear energy in the Arabian Peninsula. But its vast desert requires vast amounts of energy to run the desalination plants that brought green golf courses and to run heavy industries like air conditioners and aluminum smelters to cool its cave centers in the summer heat.

Clean energy policies flourished in the United Arab Emirates in the mid-2000s, as Dubai’s real estate boom built the world’s tallest building and a massive palm-shaped archipelago along its coast. At the time, the World Wildlife Fund estimated that the UAE had the largest ecological footprint per capita in the world – meaning that each of its residents used more resources on average than residents of other countries. The United Arab Emirates continues to be high on a similar list.

The Masdar City project arose out of fears of stigma before being pushed back.

“By actually doing it and investing the money,” Al-Jaber told the Associated Press in 2010, “we learned lessons that no one else could. We cannot be strict.

The UAE placed Masdar City in a complex that is now the United Nations International Renewable Energy Agency and an organization that invests in renewable energy at home and abroad. Joe Biden, shortly before resigning as Vice President of the United States, visited Source City in 2016.

Analysts believe that Emirates is trying to increase its profits before the world turns more and more to renewable energy sources. Emirates itself has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050 — a target that is difficult to estimate, and officials have not fully explained how they will achieve it.

Alden Meyer of the environmental research firm E3G said the UAE “has given no weight to being a major producer of oil and gas and is well connected to the rulers in the country.” “(Al-Jaber) has good diplomatic and negotiation skills, and I think he has the ability to build consensus and compromise.”

COP28 will be held from 30 November to 12 December at Dubai Expo City.

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Associated Press writers Frank Jordan in Berlin and CP Govt in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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Follow John Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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