COP28, the annual United Nations–led climate summit, is set to take place in Dubai later this year.
However, there is some concern that the host country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not be as serious about addressing climate concerns as scientists and activists would have hoped — in large part because they have picked the CEO of the state oil company to be president of the conference.
Sultan al-Jaber currently serves as the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the largest oil companies in the world, and as UAE’s minister for industry and technology, and as UAE’s official climate envoy. And unless he is forced to step down before November, he will be the president of COP28 as well. Seems like a busy guy.
Predictably, climate activists are outraged by the obvious conflict of interests that al-Jaber’s appointment represents.
“The UN Climate Summit is supposed to be a space where the world holds polluters to account, but increasingly [it’s] being hijacked by those with opposing interests,” said Teresa Anderson of ActionAid. “This appointment goes beyond putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.”
It is a widely accepted scientific fact that our reliance on oil as an energy source is one of the main driving causes of climate change. The burning of dirty energy sources like oil and coal produces large quantities of carbon pollution, which contributes to the overheating of our planet. It also produces poisonous gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, creating smog and leading to respiratory illnesses. In addition, it leads to the acidification of the oceans, killing off entire ecosystems. And the oil drilling process in itself is massively harmful to the surrounding environment.
Clearly, any serious discussion about how to address climate change should begin with moving away from our dependence on oil. But climate activists are not confident that the CEO of a giant oil company will see it that way.
“Lobbyists have been influencing these conferences since forever, and this just puts a very clear face to it … it’s completely ridiculous,” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said recently during a panel at the World Economic Forum.