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Leaked documents reveal alarming plans amid United Nations conference: 'The kind of conflict of interest we feared'

The leaked documents have raised concerns among watchdogs.

The leaked documents have raised concerns among watchdogs.

Photo Credit: iStock

The oil-rich host country of a key worldwide climate summit may have slid backroom talks of oil and gas deals with other nations into its schedule, according to the Guardian.

The news agency reported on the United Arab Emirates and its role in the COP 28 climate summit based on "leaked" documents. The Conference of the Parties takes place Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in the desert nation, which is among the world leaders in oil production. 

It's intended to be a time to rally worldwide support for reducing planet-heating air pollution, the "defining issue of our time," according to the COP website. The leak has raised concerns among climate watchdogs. 

"This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared," Greenpeace International climate expert Kaisa Kosonen told the Guardian. 

What's happening? 

The UAE's climate envoy, Sultan Al Jaber, is also the head of the national oil company Adnoc, and the dual role is being scrutinized, per the Guardian. The leaked documents include details for briefings with numerous other nations, including China, Canada, and Colombia, about expanding oil and gas production. The Guardian credited the BBC for first reporting on the briefings.

What's more, Al Jaber said in November that "there is no science" that suggests a dirty energy "phase-out" will achieve the United Nations' goals. This is a shock to climate experts who maintain that dirty energy needs to be eliminated, per a Guardian report. 

Unnamed COP spokespersons downplayed the reports, calling the leaked documents "inaccurate" and "not used … in meetings." A spokesperson commenting on Al Jaber's statement said that "scenarios clearly state that fossil fuels will have to play a role in the future energy system, albeit a smaller one," all per Guardian reports.

For Adnoc's part, the company has air pollution reduction goals through 2030, and wants to be "net zero' by 2045. 

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was reported by the news agency to be supportive yet seemingly cautious of the UAE's COP-leading role.  

"Some might call it an experiment to have an oil-and-gas-producing entity host [COP]. That's the big question," he said in the report. 

Why is it important? 

The leaked documents and comments are concerning, as the gathering is crucial to forwarding agendas that lead to cleaner economies, industries, and a cooler planet. 

If the talks include dirty energy-friendly discussions in the background, it could be a setback to goals geared "to preserve a livable climate." To achieve that, we need to triple renewable energy globally by 2030, per the summit's website. 

"The hosting of climate conferences carries a profound responsibility [with] the global community expecting them to embody the very essence of integrity. The issue becomes particularly problematic if their interests conflict fundamentally with addressing the climate crisis," Climate Action Network executive director Tasneem Essop told the Guardian. 

What's being done to help? 

While the leaks are concerning, climate experts are not ruling out the positive impact UAE can play for the COP. 

"I think that the UAE can potentially still be a transformative host … If we have due process in place to ensure [Al Jaber] is doing what he should be doing, then this can still turn into the outcome that we need," Tom Rivett-Carnac, a former political adviser who has been involved in UN climate talks, told the Guardian. 

It's also important to hold Adnoc and other companies accountable to meet their lofty climate goals. Buying clean products, and even thrift shopping, are ways to lobby for more planet-friendly interests with your buying power. 

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