The United Arab Emirates planned to use meetings about the COP28 climate summit to promote deals for its own national oil and gas companies

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), host of the upcoming UN climate conference COP28, faces mounting scrutiny over allegations that it planned to utilize the event to promote fossil fuel deals. Leaked documents obtained by a non-profit investigative journalism organization suggest that COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who concurrently serves as the CEO of the UAE's state oil and gas company ADNOC, engaged in discussions concerning fossil fuel deals with more than a dozen nations during meetings held between July and October of this year.

The briefing documents, published by the Centre for Climate Reporting in collaboration with the BBC on 27 November, appear to show plans for COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations, including one with China which says ADNOC is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG opportunities (Mozambique, Canada, and Australia)”.

These allegations have ignited strong reactions from climate activists and experts, who contend that Al Jaber's dual role as COP28 president and oil company CEO represents a clear conflict of interest. They caution that the UAE's apparent focus on fossil fuel deals could jeopardize the critical climate talks, which aim to expedite global efforts to combat climate change.

Former US Vice President Al Gore denounced the allegations as "utterly appalling," while former Irish President Mary Robinson expressed concern about the potential for "private deals" on the periphery of the conference.

“The chances for real progress at COP28 were badly damaged early this year when an oil company CEO was appointed to lead the negotiations. And now investigative journalists have confirmed some of the worst fears of those who criticised that absurd appointment with the shocking news that the President-designate has been using the meetings he has set up with nations around the world to sell more oil and gas”, said Al Gore in a post on Twitter.

Mary Robinson, who is due to attend COP28 in Dubai, expressed grave concerns about the perceived conflict of interest surrounding the presidency and urged for substantial progress at the crucial climate summit: “It’s very worrying because perceptions matter and there was already a perception that the Presidency was a bit compromised and this may make the situation even more difficult. We have no time for a bad COP. We have to have as much progress at this COP as possible because we are running out of time.”

The UAE's COP28 team has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that Al Jaber is committed to delivering ambitious climate outcomes. However, the leaked documents cast a shadow over the impending conference and raise questions about the UAE's genuine intentions for COP28.