A UN Climate Conference stained with oil

 A UN Climate Conference stained with oil

For the first time, OPEC and the oil industry in general will have their own space at a climate conference, the COP28.

By Paulo Lima / Translated by Davide Berteotti

For the first time in history, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is preparing to make its entrance into a climate conference with a dedicated pavilion, a move that has sparked concern among activists and climate negotiation observers. At the center of the controversy is OPEC’s presence at the Dubai Climate Conference (COP28), with a pavilion located within the official United Nations space.

This represents an unprecedented breakthrough, as never before has OPEC and the oil sector in general had a dedicated space within a climate conference. Haitham al-Ghais, OPEC’s Secretary-General, confirmed the organization’s participation in the COP28 event, stating, “I hope that all voices can be heard at COP28. The oil industry will be present, and we will be with them.” These words were spoken during an event held in Fujairah (United Arab Emirates) involving companies and governments linked to the oil sector.

The decision to welcome OPEC and the fossil energy industry has sparked much controversy, especially in light of their predominant role in the climate change. However, according to the designated COP president, Sultan al-Jaber, the goal is to involve the fossil fuel industry as an integral part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Despite these intentions, the news has further heightened concerns among climate activists and international observers of the negotiation process, due to doubts about the COP28 presidency, led by al-Jaber. Criticisms had arisen since the beginning of the year, when al-Jaber – also CEO of the largest state-owned oil company in the United Arab Emirates – was appointed head of climate negotiations in Dubai. Despite criticism for the evident conflict of interest, al-Jaber has reiterated that his actions will not favour fossil fuel companies.

Bother is intended to increase further with the actual start of COP, as some countries wish to include in the agenda the issue of defining a timetable for the gradual abandonment of fossil fuels. Despite defending the presence of the oil industry in the negotiations, the COP presidency is examining solutions to mitigate criticisms.

According to the Financial Times, among al-Jaber’s proposals to alleviate pressure is the idea of collaborating with the fossil fuel industry to reduce the sector’s emissions. The designated COP president stated, “I don’t want this industry to be seen in any way as hostile to the gradual abandonment of fossil energy.”

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