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COP28: UAE’s Conflicts of Interest and Repressive Regime Raise Concerns

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP28, but concerns are emerging about the country’s conflicts of interest and its track record of human rights abuses. The UAE is one of the world’s largest oil producers, and its fossil fuel industry provides the majority of its government revenue. Despite this, the country is seeking to use the conference as a way of enhancing its image while pushing for the expansion of fossil fuels, undermining global efforts to combat the climate crisis.

Appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber

On January 12, the UAE appointed Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber as president of COP28. Jaber is the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and founded the state-owned renewable energy company Masdar in 2006. However, the appointment has raised concerns about Jaber’s conflict of interest, given that ADNOC is the government’s primary fossil fuel company, and the UAE is actively expanding its operations.

Criticism On UAE

Human rights violation in UAE

The UAE has also been criticized for its poor track record of climate action and human rights abuses. During COP27 in Egypt, the UAE sent the largest number of fossil fuel lobbyists, with 70 individuals from within their delegation classified as lobbyists either directly affiliated with oil and gas corporations or attending as members of delegations acting on behalf of the industry.

Moreover, the country’s record of severe repression and complete closure of the space for free expression, association, and assembly has raised concerns about how independent members of civil society can participate in the COP28 conference meaningfully. In particular, the case of British academic Matthew Hedges, who was arbitrarily detained and held for months in solitary confinement before being released under pressure from the UK, highlights the potential dangers of hosting COP28 in the UAE.

Despite these concerns, the UAE is sparing no expense during COP28 and is expected to present a glamorous and green vision of a carbon-neutral future. However, the country’s poor track record of human rights abuses and its conflict of interest regarding fossil fuels raise questions about its ability to lead meaningful action on climate change.