COP28 president denies claims that UAE did dirty deals

COP28 president denies claims that UAE did dirty deals

COP28 started as a media fiasco which blew up in the face of the boss behind the entire environmental talk shop in the UAE. But the warning signs were there for almost a year that journalists were always going to have a hard time taking the oil producing nation – and its minister – seriously given the conflict of interests between their profits and claims to save the environment


The brains behind the controversial COP28 conference has found himself at the heart of a scandal which has tainted the global environmental conference which kicked off on November 30th.

It was always going to be hard for Sultan Al Jaber to present himself and his nation – the oil producing giant of UAE – to balance their fossil fuel profits with an environmental, new age doctrine. Indeed, months before the COP28 started, global media giants had already started to attack Al Jaber pointing out that he and the UAE could not be the champions of two causes simultaneously.

As early as January of this year, The Guardian led the cavalcade which was joined by many others, prompting the UAE official to turn to Lynton Crosby, the international crisis management tsar who in 2008 was the strategist behind Boris Johnson’s successful bid to become London mayor.

But even the Australian consultant’s media training couldn’t save Al Jaber from the awkward first day press conference which saw the UAE minister caught in the headlights of journalists’ questions about his country using the COP28 event to cut new oil deals with participating members.

The opening of COP28 in Dubai risked being overshadowed after leaked documents suggested the Emirates planned to use meetings with other countries to promote trade with it national oil and gas companies, according to a number of major news outlets who had followed up on what the BBC claimed as their scoop.

COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber addressed the accusations but the opening success of the conference – which announced a revolutionary new plan to bail out poor countries – was tempered by the lobbying scandal accusations.

According to Sky News, Al Jaber answered the second of only two questions from journalists and claimed that the reports were a slur aimed personally at him. “These allegations are false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate. It’s an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 president.”

He did not specify the inaccuracies or deny the existence of such documents. But he said he had never seen or used “these talking points that they refer to”.

Mr Al Jaber’s dual role as president of the climate talks and boss of the state oil company ADNOC has long been criticised as a potential conflict of interest, but calls for him to resign from his position at the firm while running COP fell on deaf ears.

He suggested neither his country nor he needed “COP or the COP Presidency to go and establish business deals or commercial relationships”.

READ: Can COP28 chief teach world leaders to lead by example?

When it comes to engaging with fossil fuel companies on cleaning up the energy system, he said: “We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

Mr Al Jaber said his team had been “clear, open, clean, honest and transparent on how we’re going to conduct this COP process”.

Mr al Jaber, who is also the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s national oil company, Adnoc, is said to have planned to discuss commercial interests with almost 30 countries ahead of the summit, according to a BBC report – allegations he denies.

Talks with countries such as Egypt, Brazil and China were also reportedly planned as a means of discussing how deals on fossil fuel trade could be made.

Many of the officials who reportedly held discussions with Mr al Jaber will also be attending the COP28 summit.

Under the UNFCCC’s code of conduct, appointed officers should avoid using their role as a means to seek “private gain or obtain private pecuniary advantages or other remuneration”.

According the BBC, briefing notes of a meeting between Mr al Jaber and Zhao Yingmin, China’s minister of ecology and environment, reportedly showed that Adnoc “remains a committed energy partner” to the country with the possibility of partnering on more international gas projects.

In another, notes prepared by the COP28 team ahead of a meeting with Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, claimed to say that Adnoc “stands ready to support the supply of petrochemicals” to the country, the CCR said.

Al Jaber’s media team under Mr Crosby, seemed to have their work cut out when, on the same day as the media fiasco,  a hoax statement sent to the press purportedly from the COP28 team – claimed Mr Al Jaber had agreed to step down as ADNOC CEO, perhaps supporting his claims that there is a campaign out to destroy his credibility.

A COP28 spokesperson said it “has no basis in truth, and must be entirely disregarded as fake news.

“As the COP president said in today’s press conference: ‘It is an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency’.”



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