The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a nation heavily reliant on fossil fuels, is facing increasing scrutiny for its involvement in the upcoming COP28 summit and its commitment to addressing the global climate crisis. Leaked internal documents reveal senior executives from the UAE’s national oil company, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), have been actively collaborating with the COP28 team, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the country’s dedication to climate action.
The leaked communications strategy document, obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR), discloses the involvement of two PR professionals from Adnoc who are providing “additional support” to the COP28 team. This revelation further blurs the lines between the UAE’s COP28 efforts and its fossil fuel industry, highlighting the potential influence of the latter on climate policy decisions.
Notably, in January, Adnoc’s Chief Executive, Sultan Al Jaber, was named as the President of COP28, which is set to take place in Dubai later this year. Since his appointment, there have been growing concerns about the close ties between Al Jaber’s roles as the head of Adnoc and the COP28 President. These concerns persist despite assurances from the COP28 team regarding “clear governance guidelines” to ensure independence.
Pascoe Sabido, a researcher from Corporate Observatory Europe and coordinator of the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition, expressed strong criticism, stating, “It is wholly inappropriate for Adnoc staff to be doing PR for COP28.” He argues that this new information highlights the undeniable connections between the oil company and the summit team, raising questions about the UAE’s commitment to addressing climate change.
Earlier this year, CCR revealed that several Adnoc staff members, including climate negotiators, were assuming crucial roles within the COP28 summit. Some had even been temporarily reassigned from their positions within the oil company to work on the summit, a move that further deepened concerns regarding conflicts of interest.
In June, it was reported that Adnoc and COP28 shared an IT system, enabling Adnoc staff to access emails sent to and from the COP28 team. Additionally, Adnoc was consulted on how to respond to media inquiries about the summit. At the time, the COP28 team maintained that these emails were on a “standalone, firewall-protected network.”
The two Adnoc communications executives mentioned in the leaked document, Philip Robinson and Paloma Berenguer, boast a combined 28 years of experience in the fossil fuel industry, having previously worked for Shell before joining Adnoc.
A spokesperson for COP28 responded to the revelations, clarifying that Robinson and Berenguer had not accompanied the team to the UN General Assembly and were not involved in communications activities there.
The spokesperson explained, “The COP28 team regularly receives queries not related to COP28 that it directs to the appropriate UAE entities to answer.”
The leaked document outlines COP28’s public relations strategy and provides key talking points for Al Jaber and senior team members attending the UN General Assembly. The meeting at the UN is seen as pivotal in shaping the narrative around climate action in the lead-up to COP28.
During his address at the UN, Al Jaber acknowledged the necessity of a “phase down” of fossil fuels but stopped short of advocating for a complete phase-out, a stance contrary to the views of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, who emphasizes the urgency of a total fossil fuel phase-out to combat global heating.
As the COP28 summit approaches, concerns continue to mount regarding the UAE’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis while heavily relying on fossil fuels. The collaboration between Adnoc and the summit team, as revealed in the leaked documents, underscores the need for transparency and accountability in the pursuit of meaningful climate action. The world will closely watch the outcomes of COP28 and the actions taken by nations, including the UAE, in the fight against climate change.