One of the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations has been able to read emails to and from the United Nations climate summit office and was given advice on how to respond to a media inquiry, The Guardianreported Wednesday.
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), is also president-designate of COP28, set to be hosted this fall by the UAE.
“This is an absolute scandal,” said Manon Aubry, a European Union lawmaker from France. “An oil and gas company has found its way to the core of the organization in charge of coordinating the phasing out of oil and gas. It is like having a tobacco multinational overseeing the internal work of the World Health Organization.”
Aubrey, who co-led a recent letter in which 133 members of the United States Congress and the European Parliament called for al-Jaber to be replaced as chair of the U.N.’s upcoming annual climate conference, added: “The COP28 office has lost all credibility. If we care more about preventing a climate disaster than protecting the profits and influence of fossil fuel companies, we need to react now.”
According to The Guardian: “The COP28 office had claimed its email system was ‘standalone’ and ‘separate’ from that of ADNOC. But expert technical analysis showed the office shared email servers with ADNOC. After The Guardian‘s inquiries, the COP28 office switched to a different server on Monday.”
“If we care more about preventing a climate disaster than protecting the profits and influence of fossil fuel companies, we need to react now.”
Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, called the newspaper’s findings “explosive.”
Eickhout, vice chair of the E.U.’s environment committee, said that “the [UAE presidency of COP28] is a merger of the economic interests of a fossil country with a fundamental transition agenda that should be away from this fossil industry—that will not go well, and [these revelations] already show that it’s not going well.”
Pascoe Sabido, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory and co-coordinator of Kick Big Polluters Out, noted that the UAE’s selection of al-Jaber as COP28 leader in January was “a huge blow to the credibility” of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“It’s completely inappropriate that an oil corporation was consulted and it exposes just how influential it has been in shaping what gets presented to the outside world,” said Sabido. “Until world governments accept that fossil fuels need to be left in the ground and their lobbyists are no longer allowed to write the rules of climate action, this will keep happening.”
Last year’s COP27 gathering was overrun by fossil fuel lobbyists. Like the 26 U.N. climate summits that preceded it, the meeting ended with no binding commitment to phase out the extraction and combustion of coal, oil, and gas, even as evidence mounts that the failure to do so is exacerbating deadly planetary heating.
Soon after the UAE picked al-Jaber to oversee COP28, Kick Big Polluters Out, a global coalition of more than 450 organizations led by Corporate Europe Observatory and Corporate Accountability, warned in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell that this year’s climate conference is also destined to end in failure unless action is taken to crack down on the fossil fuel industry’s corruption of international negotiations.
That marked the beginning of an ongoing effort to oust al-Jaber from the COP28 presidency and to eliminate fossil fuel industry interference in climate talks more broadly. On Wednesday morning, Kick Polluters Out protested Big Oil’s obstruction of progress at the U.N.’s Bonn Climate Change Conference—a crucial precursor to COP28 currently being held in Germany.
The campaign to remove al-Jaber from his COP28 leadership position has gained steam since it was revealed that ADNOC, fresh off of a major profit surge in 2022, plans to expand its drilling operations in 2023 and beyond.
Despite years of warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency that exploiting new oil and gas fields is incompatible with averting the climate emergency’s most catastrophic impacts, ADNOC is one of several fossil fuel firms moving to ramp up dirty energy production in the coming years.
Notably, U.S. President Joe Biden’s top climate diplomat, John Kerry, has faced criticism for supporting al-Jaber. More than two dozen progressive members of Congress have implored Kerry to advocate for the appointment of a new COP28 president who doesn’t have connections to the industry most responsible for fueling the climate crisis.