Climate envoy John Kerry: UAE oil boss is ‘terrible choice’ to lead UN climate talks

US climate ambassador John Kerry backed the United Arab Emirates’ decision to appoint the CEO of a state-run oil company to lead the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Dubai, citing his work on renewable energy projects.

In an interview on Sunday with The Associated Press, the former US secretary of state acknowledged that the Emirates and other countries that rely on fossil fuels to fund their state coffers are faced with finding “some balance” ahead.

However, he rejected the idea that The teaching of Sultan al-Jaber should be automatically disqualified for his leadership of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. Activists, however, likened it to asking “arms dealers to lead peace talks” when the authorities announced his nomination on Thursday.

“I think that Dr. Sultan al-Jaber is a good choice because he is the head of the company. That company knows that it needs to move,” Kerry said after attending an energy conference in the Emirati capital. “He knows – and the leadership of the UAE is committed to the transition.”

However, Abu Dhabi plans to increase crude oil production from 4 million barrels a day to 5 million even as the UAE pledges to become carbon neutral by 2050 – a target that remains difficult to assess and a which Emirates has not yet acquired. fully explained how to reach it.

Kerry pointed to a speech given by al-Jaber on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, in which he called for the upcoming COP – or Conference of Parties – to work “from the goals to the completion of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage.” Al-Jaber also warned that the world “needs to be honest with ourselves about how much progress we have achieved, and how much faster we need to do it.”

“He made it clear that we’re not moving fast. We need to reduce emissions. We need to start accelerating this change,” Kerry said. “So I have a lot of confidence that the right issues are there. on the table, that they answer them and lead countries to recognize their responsibility.”

Every year, the country hosting the UN negotiations nominates a person to lead the talks. Hosts usually choose a veteran diplomat because talks can be more difficult to manage between competing countries and their interests. The position of the nominee as “COP president” was confirmed by the delegates at the start of the talks, usually without opposition.

Al-Jaber is a confidant of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He also led an ambitious project in the past to build a $22 billion “carbon-neutral” city outside Abu Dhabi – an effort that was scaled back after the global financial crisis hit the Emirates starting in 2008. Today, he also serves as chairman of Masdar, a clean energy company that grew out of the project.

Doubt remains among al-Jaber activists, however. A call to countries, including India and the United States, for a phase down of oil and natural gas did not reach a public discussion during the COP27 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last November.

Activists are concerned that the COP held in a Mideast country dependent on the sale of fossil fuels for the second year in a row will see something similar happen in the Emirates.

Asked about that fear, Kerry said: “I don’t believe the UAE is involved in changing that.”

“There is a level of scrutiny — and I think that can be very beneficial,” the former US senator and 2004 presidential contender said. “It helps people, you know, stay in line here.”

“I think it’s an era, a new era of accountability,” he added.

However, the Emirates and the US maintain close military ties, regardless of the federation making policy decisions that Washington does not like.

Jebel Ali Port in Dubai is the most used port of call for the US Navy outside of America. About 3,500 American troops are deployed in the country, including at the Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi and a Navy outpost in Fujairah. The UAE has about $29 billion in pending defense sales to the Americans, including the purchase of its most advanced air defense system known by the acronym THAAD.

For Europeans in particular, Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to the continent’s reliance on Moscow’s natural gas to heat their homes in the winter. Although helped by an unusually warm winter, Europeans are trying to get gas elsewhere while also looking to renewables to fill any gaps they can.

“No country has an advantage by having a petro-dictator who can control their future and their prices and their economy with reckless behavior,” Kerry said, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. .

“At the level there is something that will come out of this that will change things for the better, that is Europe’s deep commitment to massive reductions in emissions and to a complete shift in the nature of their supply of energy,” said Kerry.

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