Sultan al-Jaber, a COP president with his hands in oil

Sultan al-Jaber, a COP president with his hands in oil

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It is a choice that makes a lot of talk. The appointment of Sultan al-Jaber as President of COP28 to be held in December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates. At COP27 in Egypt, NGOs were already denouncing the over-representation of the fossil fuel industry and producing countries. The president of this COP28 is none other than the UAE Minister of Industry, but above all the CEO of a major oil company.

It is an outcry among environmental organizations and environmentalists of all persuasions. Name a pro-hydrocarbon to the presidency of COP28 would be proof of the renunciation of the exit from fossil fuels.

Annoyance and even disgust for Yamina Saheb, co-author of the IPCC reports on our antenna a few days ago: “ It is a scandal, a scandal and a betrayal. We are bored with this story that we must tell everyone, and so on. At the last COP, fossil fuels represented the largest delegation. It’s not a COP anymore, you have to call it “the conference of the parties to end life on earth”. »

Sultan al-Jaber is the Chairman and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc). It is the sixth largest oil and gas reserve in the world. A heavyweight sector of CO2 emissions.

Oil and renewable energies at the same time

Sultan al-Jaber has already been engaged in environmental diplomacy for a long time. He already led the UAE delegation at the two previous COPs. He is also the head of Masdar, the renewable energy company in the United Arab Emirates, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

To illuminate the showcase that COP28 will be for this country, what better than to place one of its most eminent representatives there? This is the explanation of Younes Belfellah, teacher at the University of Paris 8, specialist in the political economy of the Arab world: “​​​​ He represents a new generation of leaders who are well trained, mainly abroad, and then return to the country through circles that are obviously very close to the family that reigns above all in Abu Dhabi, the al-Nahyan family. He was even special envoy of the United Arab Emirates during all the climate meetings. So he has knowledge of this sector of activity, but it is also an opportunity to do political marketing for the country. We feel that there is a desire to go beyond oil through investment, in strategies or in sectors of activity that are very emerging. »

Read also : COP27: a major step forward for aid to the South, but no new ambition on emissions

Al-Jaber is a new kind of “at the same time”. His third cap is that of Minister of Industry in the Emirates. He defends a pragmatic approach ».

Two weeks ago after his appointment was announced, the Sultan said: ” As long as the world uses hydrocarbons, we must ensure that they are as carbon intensive as possible. We work with the energy sector to accelerate decarbonization, reduce methane and develop hydrogen ».

The Emirates expected at the turn

President of a COP, it is an important post because he is the one who gives certain orientations of negotiations. Appointing a petroleum engineer to this position is the wrong signal for Marine Pouget, international governance manager at the Climate Action Network. She is from all the COPs and she wonders about this choice: “​​This is worrying because even if he has a double hat and he has this side of promoting renewable energies in his speeches, he is still the boss of an energy company. We will have to see on the spot. At this COP28, will the Emirates really take on the role of presidency and will really be a leader of the Gulf countries, in particular on phasing out fossil fuels ? This is where we will mainly wait for them. Or are they going to stay in the same speeches as Saudi Arabia ? This would clearly be a lack of ambition and would most certainly cause the COP to fail. ».

During the negotiations of the last COP, the Emirates had been considered facilitators while remaining in a group of blockers with Saudi Arabia. A paradox that ultimately sums up Sultan al-Jaber well.

To listen also: The COP27 seen from South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Brazil


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