United Arab Emirates And COP28: Inclusion Or Greenwashing?

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Summit began this week to bring together different businessmen, activists, and official state representatives to prepare for COP28 which will take place in November in the United Arab Emirates. The event has caused controversy. We'll tell you why.

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Summit

Photo: TW-uaeclimateenvoy

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: United Arab Emirates and COP28: inclusion or greenwashing?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) won the candidacy to host the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP 28. Thus, during 2023, this Arab country will be in charge of leading various events and logistical issues for COP 28. Within this framework, on Monday, January 16, the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Summit was inaugurated.

This week of the Sustainability Summit will address issues related to climate adaptation, the decarbonization of cities and industries, food security, and clean energy. One of the first big news from the summit is the creation of a group of experts, between representatives of the UAE and US governments and businessmen, who will coordinate the Association to Accelerate Clean Energy (PACE). It will be a bilateral body created at the end of 2022 that aims to generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy by 2035.

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The director of the oil company of the United Arab Emirates will be the president of COP28

One of the most controversial decisions the UAE has made is to appoint Sultan al Jaber, chief executive of the United Arab Emirates' national oil company, called Abu Dhabi National Oil Company ADNOC, as the designated president of COP28. It is paradoxical that even knowing that the use of fossil fuels is the great cause of climate change, the president of the COP is going to be the director of an oil company. However, this seems to be the case.

Sultal al Jaber, who is also the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, has already met with official delegations. Among them, he has been with Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian minister who was president-designate of COP27. The latter also questioned his role in COP27 and the organization of the event, which repressed activists and journalists.

Faced with this appointment, various organizations have expressed concern and questioned the decision. This is the case of Amnesty International, which rejects the appointment. “The fact that the UAE is a major oil producer does not bode well for the outcome of COP28 and the appointment of the head of the national oil company will intensify fears that the UAE will use its COP28 presidency to further the interests of fossil fuels,” notes Chiara Liguori, climate change policy adviser at Amnesty International.

Likewise, Tracy Carty, an expert in Climate Policy at Greenpeace International, expressed her rejection of the appointment. "This sets a dangerous precedent, jeopardizing the credibility of the United Arab Emirates and the trust the UN has placed in them on behalf of the people, current and future generations." In addition, he pointed out that commitments for the gradual elimination of fossil fuels must be addressed at COP28. "There is no place for the fossil fuel industry in global climate negotiations," he said.

For his part, Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network, denounced the obvious conflict of interest. Likewise, as a spokesperson for an organization that brings together 1,900 non-governmental organizations from 130 countries, he asked Sultan Al Jaber to resign from his position as president of COP28.

Although the decision to choose the United Arab Emirates as the venue for this conference has been defended as linking the Arab world to the United Nations climate talks, the truth is that it leaves more discontent than satisfaction. The evidence indicates that economic interests prevail over scientific and environmental ones. Furthermore, it shows that the oil company lobby is still powerful.

No matter how committed the economies and companies that have been highly polluting in making an ecological energy transition are, the truth is that they should not lead these spaces. There is an obvious conflict of interest, which is also an offense to all communities truly affected by climate change, environmental activists, and citizens who expect fundamental changes and commitments. There should be greater spaces in decision-making for social leaders, peasants, and indigenous communities, who protect their territories, and the scientific community committed to the objectives that must be met to develop resilience against climate change and stop the devastation of the planet.