The slippery slope Of COP28's host

On Friday, heads of state and government, and ministers from 160-odd countries will be in Dubai, to flag off the 28th edition of the UN climate talks, COP28. As host, the UAE chose the chairman of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Ahmed Al Jaber, to head the talks. The UAE is not the first major oil and gas producer to host the UN climate talks. It is, however, the first to appoint an oil and gas executive to serve as the consensus and climate ambition builder. The irony has not escaped notice.

The UN climate process has been vulnerable to manipulation by the fossil fuel, especially oil and gas, industry. Recent research on COP participation found that oil and gas companies participated over 7,200 times in the talks. Appointing an oil and gas executive as COP president could, given the intense scrutiny, turn the spotlight on the fossil fuel industry. Given that the energy transition cannot leave out Big Oil/Gas, appointing an insider could help push oil and gas companies to take real climate action. Al Jaber claims that he is that man. The wisdom of appointing him will rest on what he delivers as real commitments by the oil and gas industry to tackle climate change.

Al Jaber has often appeared to encourage reliance on carbon removal and technologies rather than phase out all fossil fuels, including oil and gas. His advocacy of ‘practical solutions’ for oil and gas are cause for concern, especially the push for carbon capture technologies that would extend the lifespan of the industry, which goes against calling for an aggressive phase-down of the use of coal. It is up to countries, especially non-oil and gas producers and developing countries, to ensure that COP28 does not end up giving oil and gas a fresh lease of life.


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