Even before the delegates began to arrive in Dubai, the pristine city of the United Arab Emirates for the Conference of Parties (COP 28), controversy is already brewing over the actions of the leaders of the conference. Seun Akioye, looks at some of the sore points that could determine the success or otherwise of the conference.
By Seun Akioye
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the President of the ongoing Climate Action Summit in Dubai did not achieve his high station in life at the young age of 50 years by being weak and indecisive. Though born into a life of some priviledge, Al’ Jaber made his mark in life through grit and by the hand.
With a solid educational background spanning a degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Southern California, , an MBA from the California State University and a PhD from Coventry University, Al’ Jaber has been one of the key figures in world business circle in the last decade. The circle been largely the oil and extractive industry.
One may forgive Al’ Jaber for his fixation on the oil business as his education and priviledges have been provided on a platter by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), a company where he would later become the CEO.
Starting off his ADNOC as an engineer, he quickly rose in 2016 to become its CEO. And that was where the story got interesting. Al’Jaber brought with him the great and strong hands which had seen him flourish in the United States and United Kingdom and soon attracted at least $26b dollars of investment to ADNOC.
There is only one thing in the mind of Al’Jaber: the expansion of ADNOC businesses and this he pursued with uncommon fervor. In 2019, he signed a $4billion agreement with BlackRock to invest in the development of midstream oil pipeline infrastructure. In 2020, a consortium of six companies again signed the biggest infrastructure deal ever seen in the gulf region for a $20.7 billion investment.
That was not all, Al’Jaber sought to increase ADNOC’s oil output from three million barrels of oil per day to five million by 2030, the same deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which the conference for which he is now the president seeks to establish.
But Al’Jaber’s supporters say there is nothing wrong with his expansionist agenda, however, the little problem is that, Al’ Jaber is an environmental and climate change ambassador and his actions run parallel to his other commitments to the environment and cutting climate change.
Although Al’ Jaber has tried to invest in carbon capture and green hydrogen projects, he has also made commitments that ADNOCS operations will be powered by renewable energy, critics say his investments in climate change pales into insignificance when compared to his oil expansionist projects. Then he was made president of COP 28. That was when everything went south.
“These allegations are false. Not true, incorrect, not accurate,” Al’ Jaber blotted out as he sat down with a few journalists earlier this week in Dubai as the city prepares to hold about 190 governments. Earlier, a group of investigative journalists have published a leaked memo which showed some “talking points” about Al’Jaber’s plans to strike oil deals with visiting heads of government.
“ It’s an attempt to undermine the work of the Cop28 presidency,” Al’ Jaber continued, trying hard to press his innocence. “ Never ever did I see these talking points or ever used such talking points in my discussions.”
Al’ Jaber added: “Do you think the UAE or myself need the Cop or the Cop presidency to go and establish better deals or commercial relationships? This country over the past 50 years has been built around its ability to build bridges and create relationships and partnerships.”
But environmentalists are unimpressed about his defence. His role as an oil tsar-which has been blamed for climate change- and a climate advocate has put him between the devil and the blue sea. He is supposed to act as an “honest broker” between all sides and ensure the conference comes to a successful conclusion but Alice Harrison, the fossil fuel campaign lead at Global Witness, said: “The international climate process has been hijacked by the oil and gas industry. This leak must be the final nail in the coffin of the long debunked idea that the fossil fuel industry can play any part in the solution to the crisis that it created.”
As heads of governments begin to arrive next week with serious negotiations revving up, Al’Jaber would be careful to satisfy the two warring sides, the polluting extractive industry and the green energy industry, of which he is both a leading advocat