U.S. Lawmakers Want Climate Envoy Kerry to Push Back on Naming Oil CEO as Head of COP28
The decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s to name Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) chief Sultan Al Jaber to preside over this year’s COP28 Climate Change Conference was controversial from the start.
Now, nearly 30 U.S. lawmakers are urging Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to urge the UAE to change its mind.
“We are writing to urge you to push the United Arab Emirates to withdraw the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as President-designate of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] Conference of Parties 28 (COP 28),” the letter begins. “The decision to name the chief executive of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies as president of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference risks jeopardizing climate progress from successive U.N. Climate Conferences. To help ensure that COP 28 is a serious and productive climate summit, we believe the United States should urge the United Arab Emirates to name a different lead for COP 28 or, at a minimum, seek assurances that it will promote an ambitious COP 28 aligned with the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings and take concrete steps to demonstrate domestic and regional leadership toward this end.”
The letter effort was spearheaded by U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02) and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and submitted to Kerry on Friday. Including Huffman and Whitehouse, a total of 27 lawmakers signed the document including Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Adam Schiff (CA-30).
It is unclear what effect the letter might have. Kerry has more than once supported the UAE’s decision to name Al Jaber as president of the COP28 talks, which are scheduled to begin in Dubai on November 30, according to POLITICO.
“I think that Dr. Sultan al-Jaber is a terrific choice because he is the head of the company. That company knows it needs to transition,” Kerry told The Associated Press. “He knows — and the leadership of the UAE is committed to transitioning.”
A COP28 spokesperson who had not yet read the letter also noted to POLITICO that Al Jaber had also founded a renewable energy company called Masdar. They described him “as a diplomat, minister, and business leader across the energy and renewables industry.”
Kerry has separately said that it was a positive thing to have a major oil-producing country host a COP meeting.
“It’s so important that you have an oil and gas producing nation step up and say we understand the challenge of the climate crisis,” he said, as Reuters reported.
However, the UAE has not explained how it plans to reach its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 while Abu Dhabi also plans to boost crude oil production from four to five million barrels a day, The Associated Press observed.
Al Jaber’s appointment also comes after climate activists have already expressed concerns over the number of fossil fuel lobbyists at previous COPs. At COP26 in the UK, there were more than 500 industry representatives, a larger total than any one country’s delegation. At COP27 in Egypt, that number had gone up by more than 25 percent to at least 636.
The letter writers also urged Kerry to push for reforms addressing the presence of lobbyists at COPs. They suggested that every company participating should share an audited “political influencing statement” documenting all climate and energy-related lobbying, campaign donations or trade association funding.
“COPs should not provide a stage for greenwashing,” the legislators wrote. “They should be convenings for serious climate actors and actions. Such commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process will obviously be impossible with an oil company executive at the helm. Some sign that there will be adequate disclosure of often-clandestine fossil fuel influence surrounding this COP will go a long way, as you saw the reaction to the visible fossil fuel lobbying presence in Egypt.”
The letter came the day after a similar effort from Kick Big Polluters Out network, addressed to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, as Common Dreams reported.
“There is no honor in appointing a fossil fuel executive who profits immensely off of fueling the climate crisis to oversee the global response to climate change,” the letter, signed by more than 450 organizations, read. “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.”