The UAE, as the host of Cop28, aimed to advance discussions on oil agreements at the climate negotiations.
According to leaked documents, the United Arab Emirates, who is hosting the UN Cop28 summit, had planned to utilize climate negotiations with other nations to advance agreements for its state-owned oil and gas companies.
On Thursday, Cop28 will commence and will be led by Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Adnoc, the national oil company, and also the climate envoy for the UAE. This has received criticism for being a conflict of interest, and experienced attendees of climate summits believe that these recent revelations have damaged trust in Al Jaber’s leadership of Cop28, possibly jeopardizing its success.
According to The Guardian, Adnoc’s expansion plans include the largest efforts to reduce net emissions compared to any other company worldwide. Despite committing to a zero routine flaring policy two decades ago, state-owned oil and gas fields in the UAE have been regularly burning off excess gas. Adnoc has disputed the report’s numbers but has not released its own figures.
The confidential papers, acquired by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and reviewed by the Guardian, consist of briefing materials created by the Cop28 group prior to one-on-one discussions between Al Jaber and representatives from 27 countries in anticipation of the climate conference. Along with outlining topics concerning the climate talks, the briefings also feature key points and requests from Adnoc and Masdar, the UAE’s renewable energy corporation led by Al Jaber.
According to initial coverage by the BBC, the briefings contain key messages for 15 countries, stating that Adnoc aims to collaborate with these nations to tap into their oil and gas reserves.
Adnoc has expressed interest in collaborating with China to assess potential opportunities for liquefied natural gas in Mozambique, Canada, and Australia. Additionally, Adnoc has offered to assist with the development of Colombia’s oil and gas reserves. However, climate experts have cautioned against further exploitation of fossil fuels, as it exceeds the safe limit and any new projects should not be pursued.
The frequency at which these talking points were brought up is uncertain, but CCR reported that at least one country pursued commercial discussions mentioned in a meeting with the UAE’s Cop28 team. Twelve countries stated they did not discuss deals in the meetings or that the meeting did not occur. Another twelve countries did not provide a response to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Cop28 stated that the documents mentioned were not accurate and were not utilized in any Cop28 meetings. However, the spokesperson did not provide details on the specific inaccuracies. Another Cop28 spokesperson informed CCR that private meetings are confidential and will not be discussed publicly. Adnoc did not provide a response to a comment request.
In 2023, temperature records were broken and severe heatwaves, floods, and droughts have caused loss of life and impacted people’s ways of living worldwide. This makes Cop28 a pivotal conference for expediting efforts towards addressing climate change.
The BBC was informed by the UN climate secretariat that the primary rule for Cop presidents is to remain impartial. They are required to make decisions without any bias, discrimination, favoritism, arbitrariness, personal interest, preference, or deference, and instead rely solely on sound, unbiased, and fair judgement.
Tom Rivett-Carnac, a previous advisor to the leader of the United Nations’ climate efforts, stated that using the Cop process to promote individual countries’ business objectives is strictly prohibited. He emphasized that the role of a Cop president is to prioritize global concerns and not be influenced by national interests. If member countries feel that the president is pushing their own personal gain, it could jeopardize trust and hinder progress in negotiations.
Tasneem Essop, an executive director for Climate Action Network, stated that hosting climate conferences comes with a great responsibility as the global community looks to them to embody integrity. This can become even more challenging if their interests are in direct opposition to tackling the climate crisis.
Kaisa Kosonen, an environmental specialist at Greenpeace International, expressed concern about the potential conflict of interest. She believes that the presidency must work towards establishing a fair and equitable plan to phase out all fossil fuels in order to regain credibility. Additionally, Amnesty International reiterated their demand for Al Jaber to resign from his position as chief executive of Adnoc.
The leaked briefings also include talking points on potential deals for Masdar with 20 countries including the UK, US, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Kenya. Al Jaber was briefed to “seek UK government support to extend the seabed rights for Dudgeon offshore wind[farm] from 0.4GW to above 1GW”. Masdar owns a third of Dudgeon. He was also briefed to “seek support to expedite the grid connection of a Masdar battery portfolio” in the UK.
There have been ongoing worries about the strong connection between Adnoc and the Cop28 team. Adnoc had access to read emails sent to and from the Cop28 office until the Guardian brought it to attention in June. A spokesperson for Cop28 stated that steps were being taken to separate the communication systems and would be completed soon. The UAE also neglected to report their oil industry’s methane emissions to the UN for almost ten years, according to a report by the Guardian in August.
During an interview with Al Jaber for The Guardian in October, he expressed that having oil and gas and high-emitting industries separated is not the most effective solution. He emphasized the need for an integrated approach.
High-level individuals, including US climate ambassador John Kerry, have backed Al Jaber. Kerry recently stated, “Some may view it as an experiment to have a company that produces oil and gas host Cop. That is the main question.”
According to Rivett-Carnac, the UAE has the potential to be a transformative host by uniting various individuals with a proactive attitude. If proper measures are taken to ensure that Al Jaber is fulfilling his duties, this could lead to the desired result.