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In a surprising twist to the impending COP28 climate conference, over 130 lawmakers from Europe and the United States have voiced their concerns regarding the choice of its president. Sultan Al Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, a state-owned oil company, has been slated to preside over the conference. But a growing chorus of lawmakers are sounding alarm bells, fearing the heavy influence of fossil fuel companies could skew the talks.
An open letter was dispatched to the UN, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and US President Joe Biden. The letter warned of the potential risks that come with naming an oil executive as the president of COP28, stating, “The outcome of COP28 and ensuing international climate negotiations will dictate the future of billions of people.” Signatories range from progressive to mainstream Democrats and independents in the US, while in Europe, the signatures came mostly from members of the Greens, Social Democrats, the Left, and even one conservative lawmaker.
Previous climate talks have seen a significant presence of oil and gas industry lobbyists, and the lawmakers are calling for immediate action to curb the influence of these polluting industries. They argue that the business strategies of major fossil fuel players are incompatible with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
The COP28 presidency usually goes to a representative of the host nation. Al Jaber, a close ally of the UAE’s ruling family, was a natural choice from their perspective. In response to the open letter, Al Jaber’s office highlighted his past attendance at 11 UN climate conferences, his efforts to steer ADNOC away from fossil fuels, and his founding of Masdar, a renewable energy company. Both EU and US leaders have so far supported Al Jaber’s appointment, praising his extensive experience in the energy sector.
Yet, this situation serves as a stark reminder of the tensions between the traditional energy sector and the urgent need to address the climate crisis. It underlines the importance of transparency, inclusivity, and commitment to sustainable practices in our pursuit of a greener future.
To echo the sentiment of French MEP Aubrey Manon, one of the letter’s authors, we must strive to keep our politics free from undue commercial influence and focus on reclaiming our future. As we look forward to COP28 and beyond, let’s maintain an active interest in the unfolding developments and continue to demand a clear and uncompromising commitment to sustainability from our leaders. The future of our planet depends on it.
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