World’s Largest Oil Corporation To Lead Climate Change Talks In 2023 – OpEd


By Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Gadir Lavadenz*

The Chief Executive of the twelfth largest oil producer – Sultan Al Jaber of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) – has been appointed as president of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) COP28, the biggest climate change conference that will take place in November, 2023 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In brief, the leadership of a Climate Conference that should deliver on ways to create a fossil-free future is in the hands of the representative of one of the top 15 corporations most responsible for carbon emissions globally. Like any other oil company, ADNOC’s very reason for existence is to profit off of the very product that has sent global greenhouse gas emissions soaring and spurred a global climate emergency.

In fact, ADNOC Drilling under ADNOC Groups reported a rise of 33 percent in 2022 net profit with a projection of record net profit in 2023 fueled by further oil and gas expansion plans. And now at least 12 employees of ADNOChave been given organizing roles for COP28. That means this year the global climate negotiations will literally be run by the fossil fuel industry.

Fierce criticism has arisen from all over the world and in particular from climate activists that have been long fighting for a fossil fuel free climate COP. In reaction to this appointment, more than 450 climate and human rights organizations wrote a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres and Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC condemning the appointment of Al Jaber as COP28 President.

The thin argument presented for the appointment of Al Jaber is his involvement in renewables as chairman of Masdar, a “clean-energy innovator” investing in renewables. But that alone does not compare to the evidence on the negative role and powerful influence of the fossil fuel industry in the climate talks. 

The fossil fuel industry has completely co-opted climate policy from the inside out. The most offensive illustration of this co-option and corporate capture of climate talks is the current reality that someone like Al Jaber will preside over a crucial session of climate negotiations at such a time when complete and equitable phase out of fossil fuels is a critical and immediate action needed to protect the planet.

And this is not happening for the first time!

More than 630 fossil fuel industry lobbyists participated in COP27 last year at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and 18 out of 20 COP27 sponsors were either directly partnered with or are linked to the fossil fuel industry. 

This ongoing 30-year experiment of allowing the largest polluters, their financiers, and polluter governments to undermine a meaningful global response to climate change has delivered predictably poor and unacceptable results. 

Several reports last year including this report by the UN Environmental Programme showed that the world will miss the target set in the Paris Agreement by world leaders to limit global warming below 1.5℃.

So, what’s the solution? 

It’s time for international climate policy to finally be protected from polluting interests, and this is the reason many are proposing a concrete drawing from other UN precedents to systematically weed out this undue interference. 

The UN Secretary General has recently equated the fossil fuel industry’s modus operandi as “inconsistent with human survival,” also agreeing that “those responsible [for climate deceit] must be held to account.’

A concrete Accountability Framework should be implemented by the UNFCCC drawing from other UN precedents to systematically weed out this undue interference.

Parties to the UNFCCC have to change the course of how climate talks are moving and provide immediate and clear signs of deep structural changes that can lead to just transition. Governments across the world should be actively protecting climate action from being written, bankrolled, and weakened by polluting interests. 

Rather, it’s (past) time to implement real, proven, and people-centered solutions and hold polluting corporations liablefor their decades-long deception and deceit. These are not new ideas. These are not even radical ideas. They are necessary ones.

The indigenous peoples, peasants, women and frontline communities who face and suffer the serious consequences of the impacts of climate change, together with the social groups of the world that have a real interest in curbing the emissions of greenhouse gasses, demand that the decision makers implement the necessary changes in order to ensure that appropriate measures are adopted by the world and governments at COP28 to prevent the collapse of the planet. 

If these necessary measures are not rectified and implemented immediately, it is world leaders and the decision makers who would be mainly responsible for the collapse of our planet. For us it is clear, Sultan Al Jaber does not have the moral or ethical rectitude to lead and deliver on a COP28 that is for the peoples.

*Pablo Fajardo Mendoza is with the Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT); and Gadir Lavadenz is Global Coordinator, Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice


IPS is a communication institution with a global news agency at its core. IPS raises the voices of the South and civil society. Articles here are reprinted with permission.

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