US, European lawmakers want oil boss removed as COP28 head

WASHINGTON – More than 100 members of the US Congress and the European Parliament on Tuesday called for the removal of an oil industry executive tapped to lead the next United Nations climate change conference.

The choice of Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), to head December’s COP28 summit in Dubai has angered activists who fear it will hold back progress on reducing emissions.

The lawmakers expressed “profound concern” over the appointment in a letter to US President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN climate chief Simon Stiell. They urged the leaders to “limit the influence of polluting industries” at gatherings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“For billions of people, the outcome of COP28 and following international climate negotiations will make the difference between life and death, chaos and solidarity,” said Ms Manon Aubry, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and one of the signatories.

“Corporate greed and lobbyists’ lies have led us into this climate crisis. We must prevent private interests from interfering in politics and regain ownership of our future.”

In Brussels, the letter was signed by 99 environmentalist, left and centre-left MEPs.

“We cannot allow special interests to create more hurdles in the race against climate change,” tweeted Mr Sheldon Whitehouse, a US senator known for his environmental activism.

Dozens of NGOs objected in January to the nomination of Dr Al Jaber, 49, who is also the UAE’s Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology. He defended his record in an interview with AFP in April, noting that he had founded the government-owned renewable energy company Masdar.

This isn’t the first concerted effort to remove Dr Al Jaber. In January, more than two dozen US lawmakers called on the country’s climate envoy John Kerry to apply diplomatic pressure on the UAE to replace him as COP28 chief. In February, green EU lawmakers also made the same case in a letter addressed to UN’s Mr Stiell.

Under Dr Al Jaber, Adnoc is set to boost oil and gas production, which is something the International Energy Agency and climate scientists agree could cause the world to blow past limits for global warming set through the COP process.

In response to the letter, the organisers of COP28 have given support to Al Jaber. “We believe that Dr Sultan’s experience as an engineer, working across the energy spectrum, coupled with his experience as a senior global industry leader, are assets that will help drive the UAE’s transformative approach to COP28,” a spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. AFP/BLOOMBERG