UAE's Ambitious Climate Pledges Clash with Fossil Fuel Interests Ahead of COP28

UAE’s Ambitious Climate Pledges Clash with Fossil Fuel Interests Ahead of COP28

On the arid plains of Uzbekistan, amidst a sprawling desert landscape, a renewable energy firm hailing from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is erecting over 100 wind turbines. In another corner of this landlocked Central Asian nation, the same UAE company’s investors, however, are funneling substantial investments into the expansion of a gas plant. 

This paradox encapsulates the complex relationship the UAE, enriched by decades of oil exports, has with the global climate agenda. At the helm of this duality stands Sultan al-Jaber, a prominent figure in the energy sector who holds a pivotal role in this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, set to take place in Dubai this November.

The UAE’s Dual Identity

The UAE has long yearned to position itself as a leading advocate for climate-friendly renewable energy solutions, striving to project an image of a green superpower on the international stage. Yet, this aspiration collides head-on with the undeniable reality that the nation remains deeply entrenched in fossil fuel interests. This jarring paradox raises questions about the UAE’s commitment to addressing the global climate crisis.

Sultan al-Jaber: The Man in the Middle

Sultan al-Jaber finds himself at the heart of this intricate web. He is the visionary behind Masdar, a renewable energy company that has allocated substantial investments, amounting to billions of dollars, towards the development of emissions-free technologies such as wind and solar power. This global endeavor spans 40 countries and showcases the UAE’s apparent dedication to environmental sustainability.

Simultaneously, Sultan al-Jaber serves as the head of Adnoc, the UAE’s national oil company, a mammoth entity responsible for pumping millions of barrels of oil daily. In a somewhat perplexing juxtaposition, Adnoc has outlined an ambitious plan to invest approximately $150 billion over the next five years, primarily aimed at amplifying its oil production capacities.

A Dual Role: Navigating Climate Leadership and Fossil Fuel Dominance

In an unexpected twist, Sultan al-Jaber has been entrusted with a weighty responsibility by the United Nations this year. He is set to chair the annual global climate negotiations, a platform of paramount significance in determining how the world grapples with the ever-pressing issue of climate change. These negotiations, scheduled to kick off in Dubai this November, have been marked by contentious debates and divided opinions, primarily due to al-Jaber’s dual roles.

The Controversy Surrounding Al-Jaber’s Leadership

The choice of Sultan al-Jaber to spearhead COP28 has drawn vehement criticism from environmental activists, climate scientists, and various nations. Their collective concern stems from a seemingly irreconcilable conflict of interest. On the one hand, al-Jaber is hailed as a champion of renewable energy through his leadership at Masdar. On the other hand, he presides over Adnoc, a behemoth in the oil industry, undeniably a significant contributor to global carbon emissions.

The Diverging Priorities of Masdar and Adnoc

Under al-Jaber’s guidance, Masdar has embarked on a commendable journey toward promoting clean energy solutions worldwide. The company’s investments are evidence of a sincere commitment to a greener future, from wind farms in Uzbekistan to solar installations in remote African villages. However, critics argue that these initiatives, though laudable, pale in comparison to the colossal carbon footprint left by Adnoc’s extensive oil operations.

Global Climate Ambitions vs. Domestic Energy Imperatives

The UAE’s aspirations to become a global leader in renewable energy and climate action are commendable. However, they appear to be overshadowed by domestic energy imperatives, which primarily revolve around oil production and export. This incongruity raises questions about the nation’s true intentions and commitment to addressing the existential threat of climate change.

The Challenge Ahead for COP28

As COP28 approaches, the world watches with bated breath. Sultan al-Jaber faces the daunting task of reconciling his dual roles and addressing the glaring contradiction between his leadership at Masdar and Adnoc. He must navigate treacherous waters to effectively guide the global climate negotiations, ensuring that the UAE’s pledge to combat climate change is not merely a facade for achieving global fame.


The appointment of Sultan al-Jaber as the chair of COP28 has ignited a fierce debate over the UAE’s climate intentions. While the nation strives to present itself as a renewable energy champion, its heavy reliance on oil production casts a shadow over its commitment to the fight against climate change. As the world grapples with the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, Sultan al-Jaber finds himself at the epicenter of this tension, facing the challenge of reconciling two disparate worlds: one of renewable energy dreams and the other of oil-driven reality. Only time will tell if COP28 under his leadership will be a turning point in the global fight against climate change or a missed opportunity tainted by conflicting interests.