The COP28 official sees oil and gas companies playing a key role at the UN climate summit

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Photo illustration of COP28 Director General, Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi in front of graphic shapes and images of a tree, power line pole, solar and thermal panels

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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The upcoming United Nations climate summit in Dubai will aim to close the gap between the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and global emissions pledges, according to COP28 Director-General Majid al-Suwaidi.

Because matter: COP28 is seen as a last-ditch effort to limit warming to the more ambitious Paris target of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels by 2100, skewing the emissions trajectory sharply downwards.

Yes but: Many climate scientists already consider that goal out of reach due to the cumulative impact of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and recent trends.

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  • The world has already warmed by about 1.2°C (2.16°F) from pre-industrial levels.

Drive the news: In an interview with Axios before his departure for pre-COP28 talks in Bonn, Germany, al-Suwaidi said this COP will stand out.

  • From the 1990s through to Paris and Glasgow, the summits were aimed primarily at securing political outcomes, said al-Suwaidi, who also served as the UAE’s ambassador to Spain and a veteran climate negotiator.
  • COP28, however, will be about how to achieve the goals that world leaders have already committed to.
  • To meet them, he said the fossil fuel industry should be brought into the fold.

Zoom in: The summit, which begins on November 30, will present the first “global stocktaking” on the Paris Agreement.

  • The forum aims to examine how far the world is off course in limiting global warming and to solicit ambitious commitments to close any gaps.
  • Studies show that if the world warms beyond the Paris targets, the odds of potentially devastating consequences for ecosystems and billions of people would increase significantly.

As al-Suwaidi explains to Axios, “We can’t say Paris is a success if today we know we’re off track to achieve the Paris goals. So it’s up to us to say, how can we get back on track?”

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Of note: The world is currently on track to surpass 2°C of warming, but the UAE presidency is committed to maintaining the 1.5°C target, challenging as that may be.

  • “The UAE Chairmanship welcomes the opportunity to lead an inclusive and action-oriented COP to build hope and build confidence in realizing the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, including maintaining the 1.5 a at your fingertips,” al-Suwaidi said in a statement to Axios after the interview.

Between the lines: As a major oil and gas producer, the UAE brings baggage, but also credibility in bringing fossil fuel companies more openly into the COP process.

  • THE President-designate of the UAE COP, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, is also the chief executive officer of ADNOC, the country’s national oil and gas company.
  • The incoming presidency of the COP has come under sharp criticism for both its ties to oil and gas and its pro-sector stance around the world.
  • “We know that we are an oil and gas producing country, we have a COP president who is the CEO of an oil and gas company. We understand why that may seem to outsiders, as you know, challenging,” al-Suwaidi said .
  • “However, we don’t see it that way,” he added.

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Bringing the industry into the United Nations climate The fold of the summit is conditional and is based on the idea that oil and gas companies must be part of any solution to climate change, al-Suwaidi said.

What is he saying: “We can’t have an exclusive conversation that loses the entire constituency that’s really questionable, who’s in the best position to help you fix this.”

  • “We ask them to come and tell us what they will do to address the climate challenge.”
  • Al-Suwaidi said it was up to Simon Stiell, the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to determine whether Russian oil and gas producers like Roseneft would be invited.
  • Such companies are under a Western embargo for the war in Ukraine.

The intrigue: Al-Suwaidi said the incoming presidency of the COP is focused on having a “transparent” process. At past COPs, industry representatives “came anyway” but didn’t necessarily reveal their affiliations.

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  • He did not detail the specific steps to ensure that transparency, which some civil society groups may be calling for at pre-COP meetings in Bonn.
  • In a letter sent May 23, nearly 100 US and European lawmakers called for the removal of al-Jaber as COP28 president-designate and measures to limit industry’s influence in the talks.
  • Al-Suwaidi dismissed such calls as unnecessary and unnecessary given al-Jaber’s long tenure as the UAE’s climate envoy, his commitment to energy transition and support from governments around the world.

What’s next: The meetings in Bonn will prepare the ground for COP28. In addition to the inventory, the summit will include the hotly contested task of moving towards the operationalization of a new “loss and damage” fund.

  • This involves industrialized nations compensating countries least responsible for climate change for the harmful climate impacts they are already experiencing.

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