A Fossil CEO Will Chair This Year’s COP. What Could Go Wrong?
You wouldn’t have much confidence in a global health conference led by a tobacco CEO. Now the head of the world’s 12th-largest fossil company will chair this year’s UN climate summit, COP 28.
Did you hear the one about the tobacco CEO who got to chair a high-stakes global health conference, after their company devoted a tiny share of its profits to stop-smoking programs?
Or the arms control summit ably led by the world’s top weapons manufacturer?
Or the opening session at a global meeting on addictions and harm reduction with keynote addresses (no doubt delivered by remote video) from the world’s three biggest drug traffickers?
As far as we know, none of those meetings ever took place. But the imaginary examples are ridiculous enough to match this week’s real-world appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as president of this year’s United Nations climate summit.
COP 28 takes place November 30-December 12 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The story generated an explosion of loud headlines and outraged tweets because the COP presidency matters. It’s hard enough to get consensus on any climate action worth taking with 195 countries in the room, each of them looking to put their own national interests ahead of the need for global action. That much tougher when the COP president is just another vested interest.
We’re about to see how a fossil CEO runs a high-stakes, global negotiation that can only realistically succeed if fossil fuels are phased out by mid-century. Or, as climate justice veteran Teresa Anderson suggested, when you invite a fox to guard a hen house.
The challenge comes into focus with a tale of two COPs.