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In recent years, the oil industry has enjoyed an increasingly large presence at the annual United Nations (UN) climate summit known as the Conference of Parties (COP). This year, one of their own is slated to lead it: Sultan Al Jaber, who runs the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. That doesn’t sit well with US and EU lawmakers, who sent a letter today trying to get him replaced as the head of the conference.
“The decision to name as president of COP28 the chief executive of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies — a company that has recently announced plans to add 7.6 billion barrels of oil to its production in the coming years, representing the fifth largest increase in the world — risks undermining the negotiations,” the lawmakers say in the letter sent to US President Joe Biden, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November and December. The lawmakers believe there is still time to replace Al Jaber, who is also the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and that not doing so would undermine the conference.
“With commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process severely jeopardized 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,” the letter states.
However, not everybody feels the same way. Earlier this year, US climate envoy John Kerry called Al Jaber a “terrific choice” for leading COP28.
In total, more than 100 lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have signed the letter, including leading US progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
“When the number of attendees representing polluting corporate actors, which have a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo, is larger than the delegations of nearly every country in attendance, it is easy to see how their presence could obstruct climate action.”
Most of the European signatories are members of “The Left” and “The Greens.”
The lawmakers not only object to Al Jaber as COP28 president but also want new rules imposed on oil lobbyists who attend the conference.
“We request that you institute new policies for corporate participation at COPs and [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)] processes more broadly, including requiring participating companies to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on energy and climate issues,” the lawmakers write. “These statements should be reviewed, publicly disclosed, and scrutinized prior to any engagement in UNFCCC climate policymaking processes.”
The lawmakers note that being overrun by lobbyists working on behalf of the very companies who are profiting off less action on climate change is not a good look for any conference trying to slow global warming.
“It did not escape our attention that at least 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered to attend last year’s COP—an increase of more than 25 percent over the previous year,” they write. “When the number of attendees representing polluting corporate actors, which have a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo, is larger than the delegations of nearly every country in attendance, it is easy to see how their presence could obstruct climate action.”