Kerry Backs UAE Oil CEO Leading UN Climate Talks

January 17, 2023

U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said that he backs the United Arab Emirates’ decision to appoint the CEO of a state-run oil company to oversee upcoming UN climate negotiations in Dubai.

In an interview Sunday with the Associated Press, Kerry cited Sultan al-Jaber’s work on renewable energy projects as his reason for backing the UAE oil exec’s leading the talks at the upcoming COP28. 

“I think that Dr. Sultan al-Jaber is a terrific choice because he is the head of the company. That company knows it needs to transition,” Kerry said after attending an energy conference in the UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi. “He knows—and the leadership of the UAE is committed to transitioning.”

However, when al-Jaber’s appointment was announced on Thursday, critics equated naming the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil to lead climate talks with asking “arms dealers to lead peace talks.”

The UAE has plans to increase its production of crude oil from 4 million barrels a day up to 5 million even while it promises to be carbon neutral by 2050, although Abu Dhabi hasn’t fully explained how it will achieve that goal.

Kerry pointed to a speech al-Jaber gave Saturday in Abu Dhabi, in which he called for the upcoming COP (Conference of Parties) to move “from goals to getting it done across mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage.” Al-Jaber also warned that the world “must be honest with ourselves about how much progress we have actually achieved, and how much further and faster we truly need to go.”

“He made it absolutely clear we’re not moving fast enough. We have to reduce emissions. We have to begin to accelerate this transition significantly,” Kerry said. “So I have great confidence that the right issues are going to be on the table, that they’re going to respond to them and lead countries to recognize their responsibility.”

COP28 climate talks will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from November 30 through December 12. Each year, the country hosting the U.N. negotiations nominates a person to chair the talks. COP27, which took place in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt this past November, was chaired by Hoesung Lee, a professor in the economics of climate change at Korea University’s Graduate School of Energy and Environment in Seoul, South Korea. 

During COP27 the U.S. made a commitment of some $375 billion over a decade to fight climate change.

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