UAE planned to use COP28 summit for oil deals, documents show
Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
The United Arab Emirates planned to use meetings about the COP28 climate summit it is hosting later this week to pitch oil and gas deals to foreign governments, according to leaked briefing documents obtained by the non-profit Centre for Climate Reporting alongside the BBC.
Sultan al-Jaber, president-designate of this year’s UN climate summit, has called for a “phaseout” of fossil fuels globally. But his position as head of COP28 while also leading the UAE state oil company Adnoc has attracted criticism from politicians in the US and Europe because of the perceived conflict of interest.
Documents posted online on Monday appear to show plans for Jaber to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 countries including China, Brazil, Germany and Egypt. The documents have not been verified by the Financial Times. A spokesperson for COP said the documents were “inaccurate”, “unverified” and had not been used by COP28 in meetings.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees the summit, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Its website states that the role of the COP president, who hosts the climate change conference every year, includes “raising ambition to tackle climate change internationally”.
Under the UNFCCC’s code of conduct, elected and appointed officers should not use their role to seek private gain or advantage, or to represent the interests of other groups. Draft rules of procedure that have not yet been adopted by the COP state that “the President shall participate in the session in that capacity and shall not simultaneously exercise the rights of a representative of a Party”.
US President Joe Biden is not planning to go to the summit, US officials said on Sunday, but his top climate advisers, including former secretary of state John Kerry and former White House chief of staff John Podesta, are expected to attend. Kerry has previously argued that Jaber could play an important role in driving change in the oil industry.
COP28 is likely to host a fierce debate over emerging economies’ continued reliance on polluting fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.
Almost 200 countries committed at COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow to “phase down” — rather than “phase out” — coal power, but use of the fossil fuel has barely declined, especially as energy demand expands in countries including China, India and Indonesia.
Biden’s likely absence from COP28 had been expected as he grapples with war in the Middle East and prepares for a re-election campaign in 2024.
But the apparent decision to skip the gathering of world leaders is still striking given that Biden has placed the fight against climate change high on his domestic and international agendas and attended the last two climate summits in the UK and Egypt.
The New York Times first reported that Biden had chosen not to attend this year. Biden is travelling to Atlanta, Georgia, this week for a memorial service for Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady who died this month, and to Pueblo, Colorado, to speak about renewable energy investments.
Biden’s willingness to miss the COP28 summit could hit his standing with young Democratic voters who see climate as a top issue.
Recent polls have shown Biden falling behind his predecessor Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, in several important swing states and among younger and non-white voters over the president’s handling of the economy and the war between Israel and Hamas.
Trump is expected to roll back many climate regulations and policies — including Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act, which established $369bn in clean energy subsidies and tax breaks — if he is elected.
Trump would seek to overhaul US climate and energy policy to “maximise fossil fuel production” during a second term, senior campaign officials and advisers have told the FT.
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here.
Are you curious about the FT’s environmental sustainability commitments? Find out more about our science-based targets here