UAE Appoints Head of Major Oil Company as COP28 President — Seriously

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 16 2023, Published 11:33 a.m. ET

Sultal Al Jaber, COP28 President
Source: Getty Images

Isabel dos Santos, Sindika Dokolo, and Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber meet before a roundtable discussion on Business Evolution In Energy on Sept. 26, 2018 in New York City.

The UN Climate Change Conference has increasingly become the subject of criticism, as the annual conference, known as COP, seems to give a platform to more and more polluters each year. And the 2023 conference, which will be known as COP28, is taking that to a new level, by appointing Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber — who is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, aka ADNOC — as president of the conference.


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It's safe to say that environmentalists are despondent over this decision, which could certainly contribute to the conference losing even more credibility.

Here's what we know so far.

Sultal Al Jaber, COP28 President
Source: Getty Images
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Who is Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber?

His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber has worked for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federal government in various roles since 2013. Currently, he is the UAE Special Envoy for Climate and the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, making him a member of the UAE Federal Cabinet.

Al Jaber is also a Chairman of the National Media Council, the Abu Dhabi Ports Company, and of Masdar Clean Energy.

But most notably, he is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

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What is the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company?

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, also known as ADNOC, is the UAE's government-owned oil corporation. It is one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world — which is no surprise, considering that the UAE ranks No. 8 in the world for most daily oil production, as per Worldometer. The country produces about 3.2 million barrels of oil every day, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.

Basically, ADNOC is responsible for a lot of the world's oil production, due to the massive reserves of oil on the UAE's coast, which were only discovered in 1958, and completely transformed the country.

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The oil industry is, of course, one of the leading contributors to emissions, as well as global heating, pollution, and more — meaning the UAE and ADNOC are significant contributors to the climate crisis. So how could the man at the helm of the UAE's oil production be the person chosen to lead COP28?!

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Sultan Al Jaber will serve as COP28 president in 2023.

Since the UAE is hosting COP28 — which in itself was a controversial decision by the UN, considering the UAE's high oil production rates — it makes sense that the country would choose its own Special Envoy for Climate as the COP president. In fact, the UAE's president, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, appointed Al Jaber to the role of COP28 president himself.

However, considering the UAE is dominated by fossil fuels and their profits, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Special Envoy for Climate also runs the country's oil production — though it is certainly ironic and misleading.

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But by appointing Al Jaber as the head of COP28, the UAE is taking its profit-over-planet mindset to a global audience. That said, Al Jaber has promised to: "champion an inclusive agenda that ramps up action on mitigation, encourages a just energy transition that leaves no one behind, ensures substantial, affordable climate finance is directed to the most vulnerable, accelerates funding for adaptation, and builds out a robust funding facility to address loss and damage" at the conference.

He added that COP28 will work on the first ever Global Stocktake (GST) since the Paris Agreement of 2015. According to Al Jaber, the GST will hopefully "mobilize political will to respond to what the science tells us will need to be achieved to remain on target and limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius by 2050.”

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It remains to be seen how that will be possible without countries such as the UAE leading the way in a transition away from fossil fuels — and climate activists are fed up.

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“This appointment goes beyond putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Teresa Anderson of ActionAid told CNBC.

“The UN Climate Summit is supposed to be a space where the world holds polluters to account, but increasingly [it’s] being hijacked by those with opposing interests," she continued. "Like last year’s summit, we’re increasingly seeing fossil fuel interests taking control of the process and shaping it to meet their own needs."

Here's hoping that anger and pressure from climate activists will prompt Al Jaber to prove us wrong. COP28 will be held in Dubai, UAE from Nov. 30 through Dec. 12, 2023.

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