Leak: COP28 officials to be used to further oil and gas expansion

Leak: COP28 officials to be used to further oil and gas expansion
Adnoc, state-owned oil and gas company, whose CEO is president of COP28.

Yesterday, a report published by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) indicated that UAE officials involved in the COP28 summit, which begins on Thursday, had planned to use it as an opportunity to lay foundations for new oil and gas deals and further business relations with other producers. 


Even prior to this week’s leak, before COP has started, the event has been embroiled in conflict-of-interest controversy. Mainly due to Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, serving as both chief executive officer of Adnoc (state-owned oil and gas company), and chairman of Masdar (state-owned renewables company). 


On his selection as the COP28 president in January, globally, civil society organisations expressed dismay at the appointment. ActionAid spokesperson, Teresa Anderson, stated that “this appointment goes beyond putting the fox in charge of the henhouse” and that his role is in line with “fossil fuel interests taking control of the process and shaping it to meet their own needs”. In a letter from Kick Big Polluters Out, and other NGOs, Al Jaber’s appointment is described as “threatening the legitimacy of COP28”. Stating that Adnoc, ranked second highest in “global analysis of fossil fuel companies oil and gas expansion plans”, is in clear opposition to the goals of the summit and incompatible with the International Energy Agency’s “no new oil and gas development” goals. 


The existence of such a figure as president of COP has also compounded increasing concerns that corporate and fossil fuel presence, in recent years, is degrading the ability of the summit to develop cogent environmental policy. Corporate representatives now vastly outnumber those from ‘frontline communities’ (those most impacted by climate collapse), from the African continent and indigenous communities globally.


Global Witness, in a report from last years summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, stated that there had been a 25% rise in the presence of extractivist lobbyists. Rising to 636 individual lobbyists from 503 in Glasgow, this figure has risen to beyond 1 000 for COP28. Further, the Corporate Europe Observatory have suggested sponsorship links to last years COP summit indicate increasingly tight-knit relations with the extractivist industries. Of the twenty sponsors of COP27, eighteen of them were directly supporting or partners with fossil fuel companies. 


In May, a letter signed by over 100 US and EU politicians sent to President Joe Biden, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyden and UN officials criticised Al Jaber’s appointment, indicating that it would make it difficult to “ensure that climate science takes precedence over climate delay and greenwashing”. 


In June, The Guardian reported on persistent concerns that COP28 emails were being accessed by Adnoc employees. It was revealed that both Adnoc and COP28 employees shared an IT system where employees from the oil and gas firm were able to read emails to COP officials. Though officials insisted that they were separated by a “standalone, firewall-protected network”, their proximity only served to support 'grey area' concerns. 


Refuting claims that overlap between oil and gas companies and COP28 officials put the conference at risk, Al Jaber and others have suggested, rather, that this is “pragmatism” creating a “constructive dialogue” between oil and gas and climate scientists. A spokesperson for the UAE Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change, in an interview with CNBC, said that Al Jaber’s appointment “uniquely positions him to be able to convene both the public and private sector to bring about pragmatic solutions to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement”. UAE officials have consistently looked present the presence of corporate interest as a moderate and cogent method to develop policy that includes all stakeholders, rather than excluding companies so involved in the problem.


This is a notion that has been severely limited by yesterdays leaks. It reveals various plans, laid out by state officials, to engage in relations that are likely to increase Adnoc’s expansive oil and gas plans globally:


Adnoc and China

The report illustrates established ‘talking points’ for officials to use on their Chinese counterparts, prioritising “international liquid natural gas opportunities” particularly in “Mozambique, Canada, and Australia”.


Adnoc and Colombia

Documents found suggests that Emirati representatives are eager to support extractivist development within the nation. Further, that Adnoc itself “stands ready” to build exploration and extraction programs. 


Adnoc, Brazil and Braskem

This month, Adnoc has made a fresh bid for a key stake in Latin America’s largest oil and gas company, Braskem, causing shares to soar in price. The leak reveals that officials were to ask Brazilian ministers for help in “securing alignment and endorsement” of the deal. 


Adnoc and Germany

Much alike the policy with Colombia, officials were largely told to suggest that the Emirates “stand[s] ready to continue LNG supplies”. 


Adnoc, Saudi Arabia and Venezuala

Officials were to push a notion, contrary to COP27’s conclusions and IEA goals, that oil and gas expansion is not in opposition to cogent environmental policy and further, that “there is no conflict between sustainable development of any country's natural resources and its commitment to climate change”. 


It is evident, if these leaks are accurate, that this years COP and Al Jaber’s presidency will likely serve extractivist corporate interest over it’s intended audience. In fact, such revelations indicate a clear desire to diametrically oppose UNFCCC and IEA policy. impACT would like to echo Belgium’s climate minister, who stated upon the release of the leaks that “the credibility of the UN climate negotiations is essential and is at stake here”. If corporate presence continues to grow at later summits, and such representatives continue to outnumber ‘frontline communities’, it will far closer resemble investor stakeholder conferences rather an environmental one. The UNFCCC must regulate future attendees and presidents if they wish to maintain COP’s legitimacy and are truly serious about combatting the climate crisis. Their reaction to the various COP28 controversies will set a precedent for future global climate initiatives and must side with community over corporate interest.


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