Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had access to the emails exchanged by the organizers of the COP28 climate summit, according to The Guardian report.
The development has sparked widespread criticism and has been described as an “explosive” scandal. The United Arab Emirates will host the UN climate summit in November, and the president of COP28 is Sultan Al Jaber, who also serves as the chief executive of Adnoc.
Initially, the COP28 office claimed that its email system was separate from Adnoc’s, but analysis showed that they shared email servers. Following inquiries from The Guardian, the COP28 office migrated to a different server.
Al Jaber’s dual role has generated significant backlash, with critics including former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres calling him “dangerous”. Lawmakers and activists have raised concerns about a conflict of interest.
Manon Aubry, a French MEP, called the situation a scandal, comparing it to a tobacco multinational that oversees the World Health Organization. Pascoe Sabido of the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition expressed his outrage, saying that Al Jaber’s appointment has severely damaged the credibility of the UNFCCC, the UN climate body.
In April, The Guardian revealed that the United Arab Emirates had extensive plans to expand oil and gas, which ran counter to the goals of the Paris Agreement and expert recommendations to limit fossil fuel exploration.
Al Jaber, in addition to his role in Adnoc, chairs Masdar, a renewable energy company, and was the UAE’s climate envoy. While some senior figures, including US climate envoy John Kerry and EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, supported Al Jaber’s appointment as COP28 president, recent revelations have prompted calls for the replacement for him.
Links between the UAE’s COP28 office and Adnoc were uncovered when The Guardian sought a response to Figueres’s criticism. The inclusion of “Adnoc classification: internal” in the email responses raised questions, to which the COP28 office responded by stating that they had solicited Adnoc’s opinion on emissions.
Bas Eickhout, deputy chair of the EU parliament’s environment committee, described the Guardian’s findings as explosive and stressed the need for a separation between the economic interests of a fossil fuel country and the transition agenda required to combat climate change.
Calls for the removal of Al Jaber as COP28 chair have grown, with suggestions that the UNFCCC secretariat should take more control and align with statements by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who warned of the urgency of the climate crisis. Al Jaber has defended his appointment, arguing that his business ties would be beneficial in mobilizing the private sector.
US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who co-led the letter demanding Al Jaber’s removal, stressed the need for a clear separation between his roles, stressing the critical importance of avoiding a climate disaster.
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