Essay by Eric Worrall
Climate campaigners are concerned Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber may not put his heart into wrecking his own national oil company.
Climate change: UAE names oil chief to lead COP28 talks
By Matt McGrath
The head of one of the world’s biggest oil companies has been named to lead the COP28 global climate talks in Dubai, later this year.
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is currently the chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
He is also the minister for industry and advanced technology for the COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates.
Campaigners say he must stand down from his oil business role while president as it is a clear conflict of interest.
They believe someone steeped in the oil industry may not push countries to rapidly reduce their production and use of fossil fuel, which scientists say is critical to avoiding dangerous climate change.
Don’t underestimate Sultan Jaber’s negotiating ability. The Emirates were founded centuries ago by people who turned a formerly worthless desert into a thriving trade pit stop, by the power of their ability to negotiate and attract business, so negotiation is kind of their national specialty. They survived and mostly retained their independence, even during the imperial age, because all their larger neighbours were strangely too busy fighting each other to conquer their little corner of the desert.
I’m sure Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is a competent organiser and skilled negotiator, and will do a good job, but the fact its unsure if he’ll even step down from his oil company while running COP28 shows what a farce the climate talks have become.
Going by COP27, COP28 will just be a global aid money talking shop, a place for informal political negotiations – kind of like a state funeral.
Nobody expects politicians to return from a state funeral with significant geopolitical victories. Like state funerals, expectations for COP conferences are also very low, so this makes COP conferences an excellent opportunity for politicians to hold informal discussions about global affairs when nobody has died. Politicians can attend COP conferences without the weight of national expectations for a significant geopolitical gain. When nothing is achieved, they can blame everyone else for not cooperating enough.
COP27 will also be a money making opportunity for Dubai’s tourist industry, if they set hotel minimum nightly charges, like Egypt’s COP27 hosts allegedly did.
Given this context, the CEO of a cash rich government owned oil company, a potential donor and skilled negotiator, is the perfect person to lead COP28 talks.