COP-Opera, Chapter 28

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    Tune in to the latest episode of your favourite soap opera, aka COP28!

    “This is an absolute scandal,” says French MEP Manon Aubry, one of the co-authors of a recent letter to the UN signed by 133 US and EU politicians calling for the removal of Sultan Al Jaber, the President-Designate of the upcoming convention. “An oil and gas company has found its way to the core of the organisation in charge of coordinating the phasing out of oil and gas.”

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    Momentum is clearly gathering against (not so) poor Al Jaber. Of course, it has been a long time coming. We were hardly the only ones to cry foul when, at the beginning of the year, news broke that the chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), the world’s 12th largest oil producer, would be the one overseeing the upcoming round of global climate negotiations. Well, the event is to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, the world’s 7th largest oil producer, after all. “There are some arguments to be made about involving all sides in the solution, but one cannot help but feel this is akin to getting Jack Daniels to sponsor an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting,” wrote my colleague Richard Tyszkiewicz at the time.

    Meanwhile, more than 450 organisations, under the banner of Kick Big Polluters Out, sent an open letter to the dignitaries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change calling for a reset of the system. “There is no honour in appointing a fossil fuel executive who profits immensely off of fuelling the climate crisis to oversee the global response to climate change,” they argued. “That such a move could ever be seen to be legitimate amidst an intensifying climate crisis where millions of lives and ecosystems are on the line exemplifies just how insidious Big Polluters’ stranglehold over climate policy is. It also points to a deeper problem—fossil fuel interests overrun the UNFCCC and threaten its credibility.”

    Were they, were we all overreacting?

    Slowly but surely, the agenda of the COP28 President-Elect has become more apparent since. “We must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions while phasing and scaling up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives,” he said, addressing climate ministers of the world in May. It didn’t take long for attentive analysts to decipher the addition of the keyword emissions as a covert opening for the continued use of fossil fuels if only you’d promise to remove the resulting carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere afterwards using, say, carbon capture and storage.

    And so, the plot is thickening this week. On 7 June, the Guardian ran an exclusive on its front page reporting that Al Jaber’s company, Adnoc, has “been able to read emails to and from the COP28 climate summit office and was consulted on how to respond to a media inquiry”. According to the newspaper, the COP28 office had claimed its email system was ‘standalone’ and ‘separate’ from that of Adnoc. “But expert technical analysis showed the office shared email servers with Adnoc. After the Guardian’s inquiries, the COP28 office switched to a different server on Monday,” reports Damian Carrington, Environment editor at the Guardian.

    What did you expect? That mixing the economic interests of a fossil country with a fundamental transition agenda would be a smooth process running by the book?

    I, for one, am entirely sympathetic with the sentiment of those politicians who signed the letter urging the UN to withdraw the appointment of Al Jaber as President-designate. “With commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process severely jeopardised by having an oil company executive at the helm, we respectfully submit that different leadership is necessary to help ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit.”


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