The Corruption At The Heart Of COP28 Revealed

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COP28 is perhaps the world’s last chance to avoid a climate catastrophe. Yet reports this week indicate it may be little more than a dog and pony show, a fake conference intended to convince the rubes that serious action is being taken to reduce the use of fossil fuels while behind the curtain, secret deals are being made to extend the hegemony of climate killing fossil fuels until the last drop of oil, the last cubic meter of methane gas, and the last lump of coal has been extracted and burned.

As first reported by the BBC, the nonprofit Center For Climate Reporting claims to have obtained documents that show the United Arab Emirates prepared talking points for COP28 chairman Sultan Al Jaber to use during private meetings with 27 countries prior to the beginning of the climate conference that would help Adnoc, the state energy company for the UAE, expand its oil and gas operations. In addition, Al Jaber encouraged those nations to do business with Masdar, the renewable energy company for the UAE, the reports show.

In other words, while preparing the ground for COP28, Al Jaber was also shilling for the government of the UAE to expand its business dealings with other nations. The report by the Center For Climate Reporting is long and detailed and readers are encouraged to read it for themselves. The UAE has reacted angrily to the report. According to The Guardian, a COP28 spokesperson said, “The documents referred to are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings.” He did not specify the inaccuracies. Another COP28 spokesperson told CCR, “Private meetings are private, and we do not comment on them.” Adnoc did not respond to a request for comment.

COP28 And Integrity

COP 28 Al Jaber
Credit: UN Climate Summit

The UN climate secretariat told the BBC the “cardinal principle” for COP presidents is “the obligation of impartiality.” It said presidents were “expected to act without bias, prejudice, favoritism, caprice, self-interest, preference or deference, strictly based on sound, independent and fair judgment.”

Tom Rivett-Carnac, a former political adviser to the UN climate chief, said using the COP process to further national commercial interests was “absolutely not” allowed. “The authority of a COP president flows from rising above national interests and if countries come to a negotiation and believe the president who’s setting the agenda is actually pursuing narrow self-interest, then trust will quickly collapse.”

Tasneem Essop, an executive director at the campaign group Climate Action Network, told The Guardian, “The hosting of climate conferences carries a profound responsibility [with] the global community expecting them to embody the very essence of integrity. The issue becomes particularly problematic if their interests conflict fundamentally with addressing the climate crisis.”

Kaisa Kosonen, a climate expert at Greenpeace International, added, “This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared. If the presidency wants to claw back credibility it can only do so by brokering a global agreement for a just and equitable phase out of all fossil fuels.” Amnesty International renewed its call for Al Jaber to step down as chief executive of Adnoc.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It does seem hard to understand how the chief executive of a national oil and gas company can also be the chair of a vital climate conference where uncoupling from fossil fuels is the number one item on the agenda. How is this any different than putting the fox in charge of the hen house? Al Jaber, with his flowing headgear, seems more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing rather than the honest broker the world so desperately needs.

Climate hero Bill McKibben got hold of this story and shared his scathing impressions with his readers on Substack. He said the revelations are “a timely reminder that there are entire nations that essentially operate as oil companies, with precisely the same attention to morality as Exxon or Shell.”

Also yesterday, the Center for Climate Research published other documents that  showed that the UAE’s close ally, Saudi Arabia, is hard at work on an Oil Development Sustainability Program which involves hooking African and Asian nations on fossil fuels. McKibben described the latest revelation as “almost cartoonishly villainous. The investigation obtained detailed information on plans to drive up the use of fossil fuel powered cars, buses ,and planes in Africa and elsewhere, as rich countries increasingly switch to clean energy.”

The ODSP is apparently directed personally by Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman — code name “Bone Saw” — who plans to accelerate the development of supersonic air travel, which uses three times more jet fuel than conventional planes, and partner with a carmaker to mass produce a cheap combustion engine vehicle. Other plans promote power ships which use polluting heavy fuel oil or gas to provide electricity to coastal communities, according to The Guardian.

The new documents, which really must be read to be believed, perform the same essential task as the revelations almost a decade ago about Exxon’s climate lies. They end any pretense that these countries are engaged in good faith efforts to wind down the industry. Instead they are hooking up with car manufacturers to make cheap vehicles that would keep demand for their crude pumping, McKibben says.

Saudi Arabia As Drug Dealer

As Mohammed Adow, veteran campaigner and head of PowerShift Africa told the Guardian, “The Saudi government is like a drug dealer trying to get Africa hooked on its harmful product. The rest of the world is weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia is getting desperate for more customers and is turning its sights on Africa. It’s repulsive.”

We’re used to the repulsive behavior of Big Oil in this country—above all its decades-long campaign of lies to delay climate action even as its own scientists warned of the consequences. And in fact American oil interests have engaged in just the same behavior, McKibben pointed out.

Guterres Reacts To COP28 Revelations

Antonio Guterres
Credit: United Nations

Yesterday, UN secretary General António Guterres returned from a trip to Antarctica, where a one trillion ton ice berg has just broken off from the ice shelf. He said, “It is profoundly shocking to stand on the ice of Antarctica and hear directly from scientists how fast the ice is disappearing.”

The only hope, he said, was “a clear and credible commitment to phase out fossil fuels on a time frame that aligns with the 1.5 degree limit.” Which, of course, is the very thing the new documents show the UAE and Saudi Arabia are doing everything in their power to prevent, McKibben adds.

The very first question that Guterres got at his press conference came from Al Jazeera and addressed the new UAE documents. “Can you react to allegations that the UAE has been negotiating carbon fuel deals on the sidelines of COP, and that’s their intention? Are you worried about this undermining it?” Guterres swallowed hard and said “I can’t believe it’s true.”

“But of course he can, and so can anyone else who’s been paying attention for the last 35 years. This is the logical end game of an immoral group of men quite willing to sacrifice the planet for their power. The only hope for this COP—and really for this planet—is that our revulsion at revelations like these somehow spurs the movements necessary to break the power of Big Oil.” McKibben wrote on Substack.

The Takeaway

CleanTechnica has a new look, as I’m sure most of you have noticed. Part of it includes a count of how many articles each author has submitted. I was shocked to see my total is more than 5000. That’s a lot of writing. In the time it took to write all those articles, I could gave translated War and Peace into Sanskrit, written a dozen Oscar winning movie scripts, or dug a second Panama Canal.

But instead I write for CleanTechnica, where at least 20 percent of my articles warn about the dangers of burning fossil fuels. I am used to push back from some readers who insist I am a socialist stooge intent on  wrecking the global economy.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe I am not as smart as I think I am. I’m nobody from nowhere, but when I hear people like Bill McKibben saying much the same thing I have been saying all these years in all those thousands of articles, it makes me believe maybe I am on the right track.

The one question I have is, why are these men (and they are all men) and governments not in the dock before the International Criminal Court defending themselves against charges of crimes against humanity? Can there be a more egregious crime than putting the very existence of humanity at risk for the sake of profits? If it should turn out that Al Jaber has in fact been using his position to advance the interests of Adnoc, he deserves not only prison but a special place in Dante’s Seventh Circle Of Hell.

It’s time for the lies and double dealing to stop. The stakes are too high for corruption as usual to continue.

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