COP28: Arab oil company chief appointed to lead United Nations climate talks

The boss of one of the world’s largest oil companies has been selected to lead the COP28 global climate summit, which is being held in Dubai later this year.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is the chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, has been named as president-designate for the latest round of the United Nations talks, being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The sultan is minister of industry and advanced technology and special envoy for climate change for the Gulf country.

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This year’s COP (Conference of Parties), due to kick off in late November, will be the third held in the Middle East, with Qatar hosting in 2012 and Egypt last year. But COP28 will be first where a serving oil executive has assumed the top role.

In a statement, the UAE government highlighted Dr Al Jaber’s role in climate diplomacy over more than a decade and in building the green energy company Masdar, which has generated a new income stream for the petroleum-based economy.

On the announcement of his appointment as COP28 president, Dr Al Jaber said 2023 would be “a critical year in a critical decade for climate action” and suggested the UAE was approaching the summit “with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition”.

He said his country would “champion an inclusive agenda” that ramps up action on mitigation, encourages a just energy transition, ensures substantial, affordable climate finance is directed to the most vulnerable, accelerates funding for adaptation and builds a robust funding facility to address loss and damage.

But the sultan’s role leading the oil company has sparked criticism from environmentalists, who view it as a conflict of interest.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and special envoy for climate change for the United Arab Emirates, has been named as president of the COP28 climate talks. He is also currently serving as chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company

Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International, said: “It is imperative for the world to be reassured that he will step down from his role as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation.

“He cannot preside over a process that is tasked to address the climate crisis with such a conflict of interest, heading an industry that is responsible for the crisis itself.”

The UAE has vast reserves of oil and gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, it is the seventh-largest petroleum producer, with export revenues topping $70 billion [£58bn].

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