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Revealed: COP28 host in net zero-busting plans

African civil society officials have urged the United Nations (UN) led by Secretary General António Guterres and other bodies to reject the appointment of Sultan Al-Jaber, as the President-designate of COP28. PHOTO.UN


The United Arab Emirates, which is hosting this year’s UN climate summit, has the third biggest net zero-busting plans for oil and gas expansion in the world, the Guardian has revealed.

The CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, Adnoc, has been controversially appointed president of the UN’s Cop28 summit in December, which is seen as crucial with time running out to end the climate crisis. UAE plans are surpassed only by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The UK newspaper says Sultan Al Jaber is overseeing expansion to produce oil and gas equivalent to 7.5bn barrels of oil, according to new data, 90% of which would have to remain in the ground to meet the net zero scenario set out by the International Energy Agency.

The latest revelations comes at a time Africa climate change stakeholders have expressed their opposition to the appointment of Al Jaber as the president of the UN’s COP28 summit.

In February, African  climate change stakeholders called for the rejection of Sultan Al-Jaber, CEO of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the President-designate of the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) coming up in Dubai, UAE in December.

They urged the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) and other bodies to join the African civil society in rejecting the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber, head of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the President-designate of COP28.

“Addressing the climate crisis requires deep cuts in the production and use of fossil fuels. That course of action is squarely at variance with al-Jaber’s business interests. It is hard to see al-Jaber leading objective, science-backed negotiations in the interest of the most vulnerable,” they warned.

The over 100 stakeholders representing civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), faith movements, academia, youth and women’s movements who participated in multi-stakeholder reflections on COP27 outcomes and consultations on the stakes, challenges, and opportunities of the (COP28), spoke ahead of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (36th AU Summit).

They also said two decades of international climate change negotiations and dialogues are yet to lead to the bold actions needed to address the climate crisis and avert the worst impacts of climate change.

They noted that most analyses, including those of the Secretariate of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), show a widening mitigation and adaptation gap.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of ADNOC Group and the President-designate of the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28). PHOTO/MEE

In a communiqué, the African climate change stakeholders said climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building needed to drive robust climate action in developing countries remain insignificant and inadequate. Consequently, the targets of the Paris Agreement, notably limiting global warming between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius and supporting adaptation and resilience building in developing countries, have remained out of reach.

“Meanwhile, millions in Africa face the devastating impacts of inaction, despite contributing little to nothing to the climate crisis. A “complex and difficult” global geopolitical context, marked by the lingering effects of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine crisis, a worsening debt crisis in Africa, high cost of living and unprecedented levels of hunger, has strong potential to derail, delay and reverse urgent climate action,” they noted.

They said several industrialised countries responsible for the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions have re-opened coal plants and extended their search for new fossil fuels adding that the promise for new investments and markets from the North undermine collective gains in encouraging African leaders to shift from fossil fuels.

Adnoc is the world’s 11th biggest oil and gas producer and delivered more than a billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) in 2021. However, the company has big short-term expansion plans, the new analysis shows, with plans to add 7.6 BBOE to its production portfolio in the coming years – the fifth largest increase in the world.

The data was produced for the Guardian by Urgewald, a German NGO, from its Gogel database. This is based on data from Rystad Energy, the industry standard source but not available to the public, and accessed in September 2022.

In November 2022, Adnoc announced a $150bn investment over five years to enable an “accelerated growth strategy” for oil and gas production. Independent experts rate the UAE’s climate targets and policies as “highly insufficient”, while the UN secretary general recently called for the “ceasing [of] all licensing or funding of new oil and gas”.

Recent statements by Al Jaber also appear difficult to reconcile with Adnoc’s huge plans for new oil and gas production. At a “Road to Cop28” conference in Dubai on 15 March, Al Jaber said: “We [the world] have to rapidly reduce emissions.” The following day, at an International Energy Agency roundtable event, he said: “Oil and gas companies need to align around net zero.” In February, Al Jaber said: “We in the UAE are not shying away from the energy transition. We are running towards it.”

Just 10% of Adnoc’s expansion is compatible with the IEA’s scenario for the world to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The IEA said the 2050 goal requires no new oil and gas projects to be approved after 2021, but 90% of the oil and gas expansion being planned by Adnoc were advanced after this date and would have to stay in the ground to be compatible.

Adnoc’s “overshoot” of the IEA net zero scenario is therefore 6.8 BBOE, the third largest worldwide. Saudi Aramco has the largest overshoot, with 11.4 BBOE, and QatarEnergy is second with 7.6 BBOE.

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