US and EU reiterate support for UAE on Cop28

Emirates hailed as 'crucial partner' by White House after letter criticised Cop28 structure

President Joe Biden’s administration was 'optimistic that we can collectively rise to meet the challenge of the climate crisis'. Getty
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The US and EU have reiterated their support for the UAE and its efforts to combat climate change, after some left-wing European and American legislators raised concerns over the coming Cop28 summit in Dubai.

A letter signed by a number of members of the US Congress and the European Parliament called for the influence of oil and gas lobbyists to be curbed at this year's climate talks.

The signatories include US progressives, Brussels politicians, clean energy lobbyists-turned-candidates and several other political figures with a track record of criticising Gulf countries.

It called on Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, to withdraw as the summit’s president-designate because he heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The letter puts the signatories at odds with the US and EU’s top leadership.

“Dr Sultan Al Jaber is an experienced diplomat and business leader, including as chairman of renewable energy company Masdar,” a US government official told The National.

“The UAE is a crucial partner in advancing our joint efforts to combat the climate crisis, including through their Cop28 leadership.”

The official said President Joe Biden’s administration was “optimistic that we can collectively rise to meet the challenge of the climate crisis and build the clean energy economy of the future”.

Nicholas Lyons, Lord Mayor of London, said: “I think it's going to be a great Cop. The [UAE has] been extraordinarily methodical in how they've gone about it.

“It's really timely this is being hosted by a hydrocarbon economy and it's being chaired by someone who chairs a hydrocarbon company with a background as the chief executive of a renewable technology company.

“This whole issue is extraordinarily complicated and the truth is that there is going to be an element of hydrocarbon in the global energy mix for the next couple of decades.

“I think that gives the UAE presidency the authority and the licence to say to others that, if you are going to be part of this, demonstrate to us your journey of transition.”

Frans Timmermans, the EU’s top negotiator on climate change, said “vilifying and ignoring” private energy concerns would not help the green transition.

“If we want the energy transition to succeed, we have to get the energy companies on board,” Mr Timmermans said.

“Dr Sultan Al Jaber has also a long track record of investing in renewables within his company.”

The letter raising concerns over Cop28 was addressed to Mr Biden and to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


Summit organisers said in response that Dr Al Jaber had “consistently called for aggressive climate action” and made Adnoc a significant investor in renewables.

He has attended 11 UN climate conferences including the talks that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015, a Cop28 representative said.

“Dr Sultan’s experience as an engineer, working across the energy spectrum, coupled with his experience as a senior global industry leader, are assets that will help drive the UAE’s transformative approach to Cop28,” the representative said.

US climate envoy John Kerry has previously described Dr Al Jaber as a “terrific choice” to head the talks, which begin on November 30 in Expo City, Dubai. The UK has also praised his “great leadership”.

Chris Hayward, the policy leader of the City of London, said he believed Cop28 would be “very productive”. He praised the UAE for “reaching out to developing countries and trying to bring a more sophisticated finance package to them”.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber addresses African leaders ahead of Cop28

Dr Sultan Al Jaber addresses African leaders ahead of Cop28
Dr Sultan Al Jaber addresses African leaders ahead of Cop28

He told The National: “I think that the UAE is right to bring in these countries because net zero and climate action mean different things to different countries and different people.”

Former UK minister David Jones argued that criticism of UAE hosting Cop28 came from developed nations that had a “haughty and superior attitude” towards other countries.

The Conservative politician said it was “hypocritical” for countries that have their own oil industries to criticise.

“No one raised this as an issue when the UK, which has been producing oil and gas for half a century, hosted Cop26 in Glasgow,” he said.

“This is in no way an impediment.

“In fact, in the UAE companies such as Masdar are very much involved in developing alternative sources of energy.

“Given the UAE’s background in energy, it is a country with an informed view that would make it a very good host for this climate event.”

Who are the signatories?

The letter objecting to his presidency of Cop28 was co-sponsored by US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and French MEP Manon Aubry.

It said they acknowledged that “engaging with industry can play a role” but called for tighter accountability rules for companies to attend Cop28.

Signatories from the US also include leftist Democrats such as Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Mr Whitehouse, who has made his name as a campaigner against “dark money” in politics, in 2020 was accused of being influenced by clean energy donors in Rhode Island.

Many have been staunch advocates of renewable energy development, including Senator Ed Markey, who sponsored the Green New Deal legislation that aims to tackle the climate by promoting green industries.

Another signatory is Congressman Ro Khanna, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Environment. He also supports the proposed Green New Deal but faced questions when it was revealed that his family had invested thousands of dollars in some of the nation's top polluters as recently as 2021.

Support for the letter from the European Parliament mostly came from members of the Greens, Social Democrats and the Left, but also from independents and one conservative MEP.

The parliament holds relatively little sway in Brussels compared to the European Commission and the EU’s 27 member states, but members can use their pulpit to put pressure on the bloc’s leaders.

Ms Aubry has led intensive scrutiny of meetings between EU politicians and Gulf representatives. A co-leader of the Left group, she has criticised her own country, France, for backing the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Some signatories from the Greens-European Free Alliance group have declared interests in renewable energy, organic farming and in campaigning against nuclear power, some from before they took office.

The sole centre-right signatory, Sirpa Pietikainen, was once a board member of Finnish airline Finnair.

One independent backer, Martin Buschmann, quit the Left group in 2020 after it was revealed he was once a member of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party in Germany. He said he did not join out of conviction but because he fell in love with a female member.

The MEPs not attached to any group also include Catalan separatists who have Spanish arrest warrants hanging over them because of their link to a failed independence bid in 2017.

Updated: May 24, 2023, 5:21 PM

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