The annual multi-level environment conference of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), called the Conference of Parties (COP), has been underway in Dubai for the past week. At the midpoint of the conference, the jury is still out on if the decision-makers at the high table will agree on the phasing out of fossil fuels — in so many words — and if there will be a landmark Dubai Declaration to that effect. We will know that in the week ahead and can only hope that the world’s leaders recognise the urgency of the situation as they quibble over the words of the Declaration text. However, COP28 has revealed serious conflicts of interest like never before.
The first week has already revealed the duplicitousness of the entire system and raised serious questions about how the decisions and agreements, if reached, will be implemented. The COP presidency is with Sultan Al Jaber who, in his day job, heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) which has already come under scrutiny for pushing fossil fuel negotiations under the cover of COP. Sultan al Jaber also made a controversial statement at the start of COP28 on the role and contribution of fossil fuels to climate change itself. He later clarified his statement which sounded more like that of a climate change denier rather than of a man leading the world out of the fossil fuel trap.
As days wore on, it has come to light that the number of delegates at the climate talks who are linked to fossil fuel producers, in other words lobbyists for fossil fuel, has quadrupled since last year’s conference and stands at nearly 2,400. Surely, these representatives of coal, oil and gas industries around the world are not going to press for paring down the fuels. This large presence and clear conflicts of interest threaten to undermine the purpose as well as the credibility of the conference itself.