COP28 host used climate talks to push for oilpatch deals, including in Canada

Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber is chief executive of the U.A.E.'s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and president of this year's COP28 climate summit. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber is chief executive of the U.A.E.'s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and president of this year's COP28 climate summit. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

A few days before hosting this year's UN climate conference, allegations are being raised about COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber and his willingness to use climate meetings with foreign governments to make oil and gas deals, including with Canada.

BBC News revealed the details on Monday in collaboration with the Centre for Climate Reporting.

Al-Jaber already faced controversy for being chosen as president of COP28 because he remains chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the world's largest oil producers.

Leaked briefing documents reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations, the BBC reported. They include proposed "talking points," such as one for China that states that ADNOC is "willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities" in countries such as Canada.

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"The documents referred to in the BBC article are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings," wrote a COP28 spokesperson in an email to CBC News. "It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting." The quote was sent by public relations firm Edelman Smithfield, who did not identify the spokesperson by name.

The UN body responsible for the COP28 summit told the BBC that hosts were expected to act without bias or self-interest. The U.A.E. team told the British broadcaster that "private meetings are private," while not it did not deny using COP28 meetings from July to October to talk business.

United Arab Emirates' Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change speaks at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, in Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. The U.N. climate summit in Glasgow has entered its second week as leaders from around the world, are gathering in Scotland's biggest city, to lay out their vision for addressing the common challenge of global warming. (AP Photo/)

Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber is pictured at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. (Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press)

Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has had four to five meetings with al-Jaber in the past, said Guilbeault's spokesperson, Kaitlin Power.

"Minister Guilbeault was designated by the COP Presidency as co-facilitator for the means of implementation at COP28," she said in an email. "Their discussions were limited to Minister Guilbeault's ongoing work in this role and focused on multilateral interests, as opposed to the national interests of either country."

In an interview with CBC News, Ben Stockton of the U.K.-based Centre for Climate Reporting said it's unclear what exact conversations took place with the Canadian government.

"That meeting did go ahead. That was confirmed to us by the Canadian government. But they did say that no commercial interests were raised during that meeting," said Stockton.

"The internal emails and the briefings that we've obtained at the very least raise kind of serious questions about that independence," he said, referring to al-Jaber's dual roles.

Conflict of interest concerns

Several international companies already invest in Canada's oilpatch. For instance, the LNG Canada project on the B.C. coast is owned by five companies, including PetroChina and the Korean Gas Corporation.

Many environmental advocates, including Catherine Abreu, founder and executive director of the advocacy group Destination Zero and a member of Canada's Net Zero Advisory Body, have been critical of the appointment of al-Jaber as COP28 president because of the potential conflict of interest with his role as CEO of ADNOC.

In a social media post, Abreu said Monday's report was shocking but not surprising given the UN has no conflict of interest policy.

"The hosting of climate conferences carries a profound responsibility: to be forthright, equitable, and resolutely courageous in the battle against climate change. The global community's gaze is fixed upon these leaders, expecting them to embody the very essence of integrity, untainted by bias and national or personal gain," said Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, in a statement.

More than 70,000 people are expected to attend COP28 in Dubai, which begins on Thursday and is scheduled to end on Dec. 12.