Climate activists and environmental groups have rejected the appointment of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Chief, Sultan Al Jaber, as the president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had on January 12 announced Mr Al Jaber, the Head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the president of the 28th edition of the UN global Climate Change conference—COP28, billed for 30 November to 12 December, in the UAE.
But the decision caused a backlash among climate activists and environmentalists, who argued that Mr Al Jaber’s connection to ADNOC will hinder progress on global commitments to fossil fuel phase-out.
In its reaction to the development, Oilwatch, a fossil fuel resistance network, described Mr Al Jaber’s appointment as a “clear indication of climate denial.”
“Oilwatch frowns at the choice of the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) to preside over COP28. The past COPs have had an overbearing presence of delegates from the fossil fuels sector,” Oilwatch Africa’s Media/Communication officer, Kome Odhomor, said in a statement.
Annually, any country hosting COP is expected to choose a president that will preside over the conference plenary, set the agenda, drive ambition internationally, lead the formal negotiations and spearhead the oversight function role of the overall COP objectives and declarations by parties.
Climate activists and environmentalists claim appointing an oil chief as COP president means the forthcoming climate negotiation conference has been “compromised” even before kickoff. They are also calling on Mr Al-Jaber to resign from his role before he can act as the COP28 president.
“With the announcement of the oil chief as the COP president it clearly shows that COP28 is highly compromised,” the Oilwatch network statement read.
“The appointment of Sultan Al Jaber who serves as the minister of industry and advanced technology for UAE and also as the chief of the Abu Dhabi National oil Company (Adnoc), which is the world’s twelfth-largest oil company by production, is certain to lock in false and risky solutions in the UNFCCC process.”
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“The COP is meant to tackle global warming, not compound it,” the statement added.
The Oilwatch network expressed worry over having more delegates from the fossil fuel sector at COP while the world is trying to move against fossil fuel exploration amidst effort to gradually reverse the devastating impacts of climate change ravaging communities globally.
According to the statement, at COP27 held in El Sharm Sheikh, Egypt, the sector (oil & gas) had more delegates than any single country.
Based on this, the group said having the head of an oil company as the president of any COP is a form of climate denial and that at a time when the world should make every effort to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Mr Al-Jaber appointment is a clear indication of climate change denial.
On his part, Nnimmo Bassey, a member of Oilwatch international steering committee stated that “The last two COPs crawled with delegates from the fossil fuels sector and they have been responsible for blocking real climate action or derailing negotiations.”
Mr Bassey said their heavy presence has led to the COP being unable to call for a fossil fuel phase-out even though it is the sensible thing to do.
“Now UAE spits in the face of flooded, drowning and other climate impacted nations by appointing the chief among polluters to preside over COP28,” Mr Bassey added.
“We call on the UAE to rescind this appointment. It is the time to kick polluters out of the COP, not a time to make them the chief directors of proceedings. If they maintain this appointment, the COP would have earned its title as a “Conference of Polluters”.”
Similarly, Oilwatch Africa coordinator, Salome Nduta, stated that the appointment of Abu Dhabi chief or that of anybody who has interest in oil will definitely gag genuine discussions on the protection of the environment.
She described the move as “a deliberate attempt” to reverse minimal gains made so far and that oil companies who are the main polluters and violators of rights should not be made to be the judge in a matter against it.
“Entrusting one of their own is a blatant violation of rights and conflict of interest,” she added.
In his reaction, Kentebe Ebiraidor, the coordinator of Oilwatch International, said it is amusing to have the chair of a multinational company play host to COP28.
This, he said, has shown that the discussions at COP28 would be centred on profit over people, and it is a clear indication that COP28 has been billed to fail before it begins.
“This is also a clear indication that the communities and the environment will suffer because of the decisions that would come out of its discussion which will in no way be meaningful nor in favour of the people. Oilwatch International asks that the UAE retrace its decision by changing the president of the COP,” he noted.
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