One could believe in a joke, an absurd spring to de-dramatize a heavy climatic news. It is not so. The 28e conference of the United Nations (UN) on the climate, the COP28, which will be held from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), will be chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati Minister of Industry and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the national oil company Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc). An appointment, officially announced Thursday, January 12, which arouses the disbelief, skepticism or anger of many climate experts.
This is the first time that the president of an oil group has exercised this responsibility as conductor of the climate negotiations, the one which must allow the 196 countries to find compromises to accelerate the fight against global warming. A double hat that raises questions, while climate change is mainly caused by the combustion of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.
Denouncing an important ” conflict of interest “, Tasneem Essop, the executive director of the Climate Action Network, which brings together 1,900 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 130 countries, calls on Sultan Al Jaber to step down as CEO. Without what, “this will amount to a total takeover of the UN climate negotiations by an oil company and fossil fuel lobbyists”. Last year, COP27 in Egypt welcomed more than 600 of them, a record. “We cannot have another COP where the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sacrifice our future for a few more years of profit”abounds Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan climate activist.
The pill is all the harder to swallow as COP28 proves to be crucial. In a world faced with the multiplication of climatic disasters, the expectation is great to see a conference tackling fossil fuels. This edition is all the more important as it will be the moment of the first global assessment of the countries’ climate commitments.
How to explain such a choice? The presidency of the COPs rotates each year, rotating between five major regional groups defined by the UN. After Western Europe in 2021 (Glasgow COP26) and Africa (Sharm El-Sheikh) in 2022, this year it was the turn of Asia-Pacific – which includes the Middle East – to host the climatic high mass. The United Arab Emirates have been able to assert their financial means and their infrastructures, even if “the way the allocation was decided within the group is opaque”slips an expert in climate negotiations.
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