The campaign to oust Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber from his role as president-designate of the forthcoming United Nations climate summit ratcheted up Monday after the fossil fuel corporation he oversees announced record profits along with plans to expand.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) raked in $802 million in net profit in 2022, up 33% from $604 million in 2021, Reutersreported. The drilling giant headed by al-Jaber is anticipating another record-breaking year—with a projection of $850 million to $1 billion in net profit in 2023—largely because it intends to ramp up extraction, including from so-called "unconventional" wells, despite evidence that doing so will contribute to locking in the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
That "al-Jaber, the chief executive of ADNOC, one of the world's largest oil and gas producers, plans to increase the group's production of fossil fuels... is entirely incompatible with his role as president-designate of COP28," Marta Schaaf of Amnesty International said in a statement.
"Sultan al-Jaber cannot be an honest broker for climate talks when the company he leads is planning to cause more climate damage," said Schaaf, Amnesty's program director for Corporate Accountability and Climate, Economic, and Social Justice.
The recent decision by the United Arab Emirates—host of the COP28 gathering slated to start in November—to appoint al-Jaber to preside over a pivotal round of international climate negotiations has been widely condemned.
"It is obvious, despite Sultan al-Jaber's denials, that his dual role is a glaring conflict of interest which will contribute to further climate disaster and unfolding human rights violations."
A global network of more than 450 climate justice organizations wrote in a January 26 letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that "no COP overseen by a fossil fuel executive can be seen as legitimate."
A day later, more than two dozen progressive members of Congress urged top U.S. climate diplomat John Kerry, who has come under fire for celebrating al-Jaber's appointment, to pressure the U.A.E. to name a new COP28 president-designate that doesn't have ties to the industry most responsible for fueling the climate emergency.
Adding to the chorus, Amnesty on Monday called al-Jaber "unfit" to lead COP28.
"It is obvious, despite Sultan al-Jaber's denials, that his dual role is a glaring conflict of interest which will contribute to further climate disaster and unfolding human rights violations," said Schaaf.
“Since he was announced as COP28 president-designate last month, Sultan al-Jaber has said that climate concerns should never compromise economic growth," Schaaf continued. "He has described natural gas—a core part of ADNOC's expansion plans whose main ingredient is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide—as a critical component in the transition to sustainable energy."
Genevieve Guenther, founding director of End Climate Silence and affiliate faculty at The New School, shed further light on al-Jaber's attempts to minimize Big Oil's role in causing the climate crisis and willingness to intensify it. As Guenther points out, al-Jaber has portrayed a benign-sounding "energy industry"—bereft of references to oil, gas, and coal companies—as a needed partner in decarbonization even though it is precisely the nature of "the energy industry" that environmental justice groups are trying to transform.
Like the 26 annual U.N. climate meetings that preceded it, COP27 ended last November with no commitment to a rapid and equitable global phase-out of oil, gas, and coal. Despite scientists' repeated warnings that expanding fossil fuel production will worsen the deadly impacts of the climate emergency, ADNOC and hundreds of other corporations are planning to ramp up planet-heating pollution in the years ahead.
Progressive critics have argued that policymakers' ongoing failure to directly confront the fossil fuel industry—whose drive to maximize short-term profits is putting the future of humanity at risk—is inseparable from Big Oil's corrupting influence at U.N. climate talks.
"Following reports that some ADNOC staff have been seconded to the COP28 organizing team," Schaaf said Monday, "the expansion plans will heighten concerns that this crucial climate conference is being hijacked by the state oil company and will serve wider fossil fuel interests."
Schaaf reiterated Amnesty's "call for Sultan al-Jaber to resign from the state oil company and for the U.A.E.'s COP28 leadership team to include the phasing out of fossil fuels among its priorities for the conference."