Sultan Al-Jaber’s simultaneous roles as COP28 President and CEO of ADNOC – Abu Dhabi National Oil Company – constitute a glaring climate paradox, bound to perplex many.
The Call for a Fossil Fuel “Phase Down”
One of the central themes of Al Jaber’s recommendations for COP28 is the idea of a “fossil fuel phase down“. This idea centers around transitioning from heavy reliance on fossil fuels to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.
Al-Jaber, who also serves as the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), has announced plans for a newly proposed green initiative. This is planned to be launched at the COP28 climate summit. More than 20 fossil fuel-intensive companies, encompassing up to a quarter of all oil and gas production, are already in talks to sign up to the initiative.
Amongst these green initiatives, Al-Jaber is also actively urging these companies to join the Global Decarbonisation Alliance, which requires its members to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and substantially reducing methane emissions throughout their operations by 2030.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
When considering Al-Jaber’s committed climate action and spearheading of COP28, it certainly seems like the oil maven is eco-conscious. If you only choose to look on the surface.
Currently, Al-Jaber is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, a company with an oil production capacity exceeding 4 million Barrels Per Day with plans to increase to 5 million Barrels Per Day by 2030.
On one hand, the company has made bold commitments, such as pledging to invest $15 billion in low-carbon energy initiatives by 2030. This a clear sign of the world’s 12th largest oil company recognizing the importance of renewable investments.
Amidst this green momentum, ADNOC’s Ruwais refinery recently earned the prestigious International Sustainability Carbon Certification (ISCC). This achievement grants ADNOC the capability to provide sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to international airlines at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The inaugural batch of SAF, crafted from used cooking oil feedstock, is poised to hit the market later this month.
Greenwashing in the Shadows
However, amidst these positive strides, it is challenging to overlook that ADNOC has concurrently ramped up its fossil fuel production. This is evident from the addition of three new rigs to its fleet. Such an expansion in fossil fuel infrastructure contradicts the worldwide push to curb fossil fuel consumption and embrace greener alternatives.
It is worth considering whether these recent green initiatives are a slick tactic to give the company an eco-friendly makeover amid recent controversies. Additionally, these changes coincide with Al-Jaber’s appointment as the UAE’s climate representative in January.
It was just this year that members of ADNOC faced accusations of greenwashing.
Company members were revealed to have aimed to create a narrative portraying Al Jaber as a climate champion. According to The Guardian and the Center for Climate Reporting(CCR), energy companies linked to Sultan Al-Jaber paid a number of users to downplay his role within the companies.
One user disclosed that they were paid by ADNOC to remove a reference to a $4 billion oil pipeline deal al-Jaber signed in 2019 with investment firms BlackRock and KKR. ADNOC considered the agreement as one of several “unnecessary details” included in Al-Jaber’s page.
Sultan Al-Jaber is not merely a figurehead at ADNOC. He wields significant influence as CEO.
This position grants him control over the company’s policies, strategies, and actions. Moreover, Al-Jaber is also head of renewable energy firm Masdar.
Sultan Al-Jaber’s signing of the final go-ahead for ADNOC’s oil endeavors makes it harder to believe his commitment to “attacking all emissions.”. The same oil company produced 14 times more emissions last year than it reported.
The Need for Authentic Climate Leadership
The contradictory nature of Al-Jaber’s companies and his personal actions leave us with one key question. Can Sultan Al-Jaber genuinely advocate for climate action while presiding over a company with substantial fossil-fuel investments?
At this stage, the world is in need of leaders who will genuinely address the climate crisis. The stakes are already high, and the world needs committed climate leaders with the impending climate challenges looming large.
It is not just the deep pockets but the deep-seated commitment that will navigate us toward a greener, more sustainable future.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: DR. Sultan Al-Jaber. Featured Photo Credit: Flickr.