May 11, 2023

Valentina Stackl, (ET)
Nicole Rodel, (CET)

Oil and Gas Industry Captures UN Climate Process: UAE COP28 Presidency Undermines Climate Action

COP28 president and ADNOC CEO Sultan Al Jaber is putting the interests of the fossil fuel industry above the UN Climate process and is setting COP28 up for failure.

The UAE COP presidency started emphasizing the need for countries at this year’s U.N. climate change negotiations to commit to phase out fossil fuel emissions, as opposed to phasing out coal, oil, and gas extraction and use. This semantic shift, which mirrors the “climate” strategies of international oil and gas companies, relies on unproven technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage or Direct Air Capture as well as offsets to theoretically reduce the emissions from oil and gas while prolonging the lifetime of fossil fuel assets. These risky technological gambles are the industry’s attempt at ignoring the scientific consensus to end oil and gas expansion and phase out existing production, equitably and quickly.

This stance is also at odds with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to action for countries to cease new oil and gas production, stop expansion of existing reserves, and shift subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition.

At the close of COP27 in Egypt, an alliance of 80 countries called for fossil fuel phase out to be included in the final joint declaration. In March, Pacific Island nations committed to creating a “Fossil Fuel Free Pacific” and called for all countries to join them in managing a global and equitable phase out of coal, oil, and gas. More recently the International Energy Agency (IEA) reaffirmed that G7 countries must end new gas expansion to meet the 1.5ºC limit.

Oil Change International research has shown that the UAE is poised to become the third largest expander of oil and gas production between 2023 and 2025 and Al Jaber’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) the second largest expander company — undermining the credibility of the global climate talks, and indicating that civil society fears were justified of the UAE forcing its own pro-fossil fuel interests over those of the UNFCCC process.

Scenarios from the IEA and IPCC prove that phasing out fossil fuels must be the centerpiece of any science-based strategy to avoid overshooting 1.5ºC of warming and prevent irreversible climate impacts. Scaling up renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, and equitably reducing fossil fuel demand are the keys to rapid and effective emissions reductions.

In response, Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy Campaigner Manager, Oil Change International, released the following statement:

“As we feared and expected, the UAE Presidency of COP28 is putting the interest of the oil and gas industry above those of the climate process it is supposed to shepherd. After capturing the COP Presidency, oil and gas interests are now trying to impose a vision of false climate action that only serves to keep the fossil fuel economy alive for as long as possible, at the dire cost of a liveable future. This is unprecedented and gravely threatens the credibility of the UN climate negotiations.

“The UAE’s recent declarations on the need to tackle “fossil fuel emissions” is a baseless, transparent attempt at shifting the debate away from the urgent need to end the expansion of fossil fuel production and phase out coal, oil and gas. The 80 countries that came out in favor of phasing out fossil fuels at last year’s COP should be outraged at these declarations and at seeing the UN Climate process used to preserve the short-term bottomline of the industry driving the climate crisis.

“We need the UAE presidency to set aside the short-term interests of ADNOC and the oil and gas industry, and perform its role with integrity by adopting a science-based approach to the negotiations commensurate with the action required to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and centering the need to phase out fossil fuels and massively increase renewable energy deployment at the heart of COP28 – and we need governments around the world to demand the same.”