“We must be brutally honest about the gaps that need to be filled, the root causes and how we got to this place here today.” These are the words of Mr. Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the designated president of COP28, as he addressed a gathering in Brussels last month.
Al Jaber, known for his role as the chief executive of Adnoc, the state oil company of the UAE, now finds himself at the center of controversy. It has come to light that Adnoc failed to report its methane emissions to the United Nations (UN) for nearly a decade, raising questions about the UAE’s commitment to environmental transparency and its suitability as the host nation for COP28.
Al Jaber is set to preside over COP28, the United Nations climate summit scheduled to take place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023. However, the revelation of the UAE’s failure to report methane emissions has cast a shadow over his leadership.
COP28 Host UAE’s Climate Change Stance and Methane Emissions
“We are at the midway point between Paris and 2030, but we are nowhere near close enough to our destination. We have to face facts. The incremental steps taken so far to address the climate crisis are not meeting the urgency of the moment,” declared Sultan Al Jaber during the Ministerial on Climate Action in Brussels last July. “As I’ve said many times, the phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable. It is, in fact, essential.”
The UAE’s official position is to reduce its impact on the planet by addressing fossil fuel dependencies and implementing other sustainable solutions. In October 2022, the UAE’s national oil company, Adnoc, announced a commitment to limit methane emissions to 0.15% of the total gas produced by 2025, a goal lauded as one of the most ambitious in the Middle East.
The company’s website proudly states, “The new methane intensity target further reinforces our commitment to environmentally responsible production of low carbon energy and our support to the UAE’s Global Methane Pledge.”
In July 2023, Adnoc published a document titled “Advancing Towards Net Zero,” outlining the company’s journey towards achieving zero emissions between 2025 and 2045. However, critics argue that the report only considers methane emissions originating from Adnoc’s “operated oil and gas assets” and does not account for emissions resulting from the consumption of the oil and gas they sell.
UN’s Unreported Methane Emissions
The revelation that the UAE failed to report its methane emissions to the UN for nearly a decade has raised significant concerns. This lack of transparency, coupled with the UAE’s plans to expand oil and gas formation despite warnings from scientists, has led many to question Al Jaber’s suitability as the COP28 President-Designate.
Sultan Al Jaber recently defended his stance by asserting that “phasing down fossil fuels is inevitable” and “essential.” He emphasized the need for a gradual transition, stating, “You can’t unplug the world from the current energy system before you build the new energy system. It’s a transition: transitions don’t happen overnight, transition takes time.” However, he did not give a to the point timetable for this renewable energy transition.
Greenwashing Allegations And International Outcry
In May 2023, Al Jaber faced criticism for allegedly attempting to “greenwash” his image with the assistance of his media team. He was accused of adding quotes to his Wikipedia page to highlight the significance of his role as CEO of Adnoc and its supposed positive contributions to addressing climate change.
The controversy surrounding Al Jaber has prompted 130 lawmakers from the United States and Europe to pen an open letter to the United Nations, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and U.S. President Joe Biden. In the letter, they called for Al Jaber’s removal from his position as COP28 President-Designate, citing concerns about his leadership and the UAE’s lack of transparency in reporting methane emissions.
Despite the mounting pressure and international outcry, Sultan Al Jaber continues to hold the title of COP28 President-Designate. However, with the recent revelation of the UAE’s failure to report methane emissions to the UN, questions persist about his suitability for this pivotal role.