DR SULTAN AL JABER, via Arctic Circle/Flickr

Freedom Forward has joined with Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth, and many other organizations to urge U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to oppose the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber as President-designate of the upcoming COP 28 global climate conference. Sultan Al Jaber is the CEO of the United Arab Emirates oil dictatorship’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Having Al Jaber, a major fossil fuel champion, in charge of climate negotiations would be a major blow to achieving COP 28’s goal of achieving significant progress on global climate action.

Full Letter:

Dear Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry:

We are writing to urge you to push the United Arab Emirates to withdraw the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as President-designate of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties 28 (COP 28). The decision to name the chief executive of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies as president of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference risks jeopardizing climate progress from successive U.N. Climate Conferences. To maintain our credibility as a global climate leader, and to ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit, we believe the United States should work with the international community to demand the United Arab Emirates name a different lead for COP 28 or else push for the U.N. to seek an alternative host for the Conference.

We know that you share our sense of urgency about the climate crisis, and that you understand the imperative of achieving significantly more progress on climate action at COP 28.  The appointment of an oil company executive to head COP 28 presents a clear conflict of interest and taints not just the negotiation process but the whole conference itself. The policy and programming of COP 28 needs to complement and be grounded on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and based on each country doing its fair share of the global effort to keep temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – in line with historical responsibility for the climate crisis, capacity to act, and justice. 

You are also well aware that the fossil fuel industry has already deeply tampered with UN climate negotiations. At least 636 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to COP 27 in Egypt in November 2022. Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world’s most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy. It cannot be seen as legitimate and undermines the very essence of what is trying to be accomplished.

Furthermore, as some of us have urged, future COPs should require any participating company to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on energy and climate issues. COPs should not provide a stage for greenwashing. They should be convenings for serious climate actors and actions. Such common sense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process will obviously be impossible with an oil company executive at the helm.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue, and for your ongoing dedication and unmatched leadership in confronting the climate crisis. It is imperative the United States oppose Sultan Al Jaber’s position as president of COP 28 and require a leader without conflicts of interest when it comes to the fossil fuel industry’s responsibility for the climate crisis. Otherwise, the United States should work with our allies to push the U.N. to find an alternative host country. We look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.