COP28: Government defends oil boss Jaber to head talks

The UK government has defended the United Arab Emirates’ appointment of oil executive Sultan al-Jaber as head of this year’s UN COP28 climate summit.

It comes after more than 130 lawmakers from the US and EU wrote to the UN calling for his removal.

The UN has long been criticised for the involvement of the fossil fuel industry in the COP climate summits.

On Thursday, Minister for Net Zero Graham Stuart said Jaber was “an outstanding individual”.

Every year the host country for the global climate summit, known as COP, nominates a president. As well as organising the event they provide political leadership, heading up critical negotiations on climate action in the run up to, and during, the conference.

This year the hosts, the UAE, nominated Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, the head of the state oil company, as president of the summit, which starts in Dubai in November.

Campaigners have been growing increasingly vocal against this decision, and this week 133 lawmakers from the EU and US joined the call for his removal.

In a joint letter addressed to the United Nations, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden, the lawmakers expressed their “profound concern” that the fossil fuel industry was allowed to exert influence on the talks.

But Mr Stuart, during a news conference on Thursday, defended the decision of the UAE.

Speaking at an environmental technology conference, he said: “I think he is an outstanding individual and we look forward to working with the UAE to ensure COP28 is a success and gets more countries committing to the necessary emissions reductions.”

Mr Stuart also defended Jaber’s track record at ADNOC, the UAE state oil company, saying that he was cleaning up their operations and reducing emissions.

Any emissions from the production of oil are dwarfed by the emissions produced when it is used. But the emissions from using oil products like petrol are the responsibility of the country where they are used

The UAE is one of the 10 largest oil producers in the world. Their state oil company pumped 2.7 million barrels of oil per day in 2021, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

The company aims to expand to nearly double output to five million barrels per day by 2027 – a target date brought forward from 2030 two months ago by Jaber.

Zeina Khalil Hajj, head of global campaigning for, one of the groups calling for his removal, said: “It is the equivalent of appointing the CEO of a cigarette company to oversee a conference on cancer cures.”

In ten days countries will come together for the Bonn climate conference – the halfway point to COP28 which is used to reflect on progress in reaching climate targets. There are suggestions that these talks will be used to reflect on the involvement of polluting industries, like oil companies, in the talks.

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