The Conference of the Parties (COP) stands as the highest decision-making authority within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), bringing together representatives from member nations of the convention. COP’s primary mission is to convene and deliberate on matters related to climate change, where it evaluates progress, negotiates fresh commitments, and addresses pressing issues. Since 2001, COP has convened 14 sessions, each contributing to the discussion on climate change. This particular session of COP emphasizes a powerful ‘leave no one behind’ approach to climate action, symbolizing a commitment to inclusivity and equity.
However, the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as the president-elect of COP28 has sparked controversy.
Concerns have arisen over an oil executive leading a conference focused on combating climate change, raising questions about its alignment with the UNFCCC’s principles. As reported in The Guardian, only a mere 10% of Adnoc’s expansion plans align with the IEA’s (International Energy Agency) vision of achieving global net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The IEA has stated that to achieve the 2050 target, it is imperative to avoid any new approvals for oil and gas projects after 2021. Unfortunately, 90% of Adnoc’s proposed oil and gas expansion projects were approved after this crucial date and would have to be abandoned to align with the net-zero goal. In this context, independent experts argue that the UAE’s fossil fuel strategies do not go far enough in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold already exceeded by existing fossil fuel emissions.
The stark reality is that the UAE heavily relies on fossil fuel exports, has increased oil production in defiance of Paris Agreement commitments, and boasts high per capita carbon dioxide emissions. Despite investments in renewable energy, concerns persist regarding their impact on reducing fossil fuel consumption. Adnoc’s expansion plans further underscore a misalignment with net-zero objectives, intensifying apprehensions about inadequate strategies to combat climate change.
In 2022 Egypt’s hosting of COP27 raised significant concerns due to its government’s crackdowns on human rights and environmental organizations. This repression resulted in limited space for independent organizations and advocacy. The worry is that similar restrictions may occur during COP28, even though Al Jaber assures that civil society groups are welcome, and the empowerment of all stakeholders, as well as the promotion of gender equality, is part of the conference objectives. This skepticism arises from the UAE’s authoritarian regime, which consistently oppresses its citizens and violates human rights.
Beneath the veneer of modernity and progress, the UAE’s darker side remains evident. The persistent male guardianship system severely curtails women’s rights and freedoms. Migrant workers, constituting a significant part of the workforce, face systematic denial of basic rights. Same-sex relationships not only endure stigma but also carry the death penalty as the harshest punishment.
The plight of Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights advocate who used social media as a platform, serves as a stark and disturbing example of the UAE’s authoritarian regime’s relentless violations of fundamental rights. His harsh sentence of 10 years in solitary confinement is emblematic of the regime’s heavy-handed approach to suppressing dissent and stifling freedom of expression.
Tragically, Ahmed Mansoor’s case is not an isolated incident. It is part of a troubling pattern in the UAE, where individuals who have dared to express their views or call for democratic reforms have faced unjust imprisonment. The UAE 94, a group of individuals who simply exercised their right to sign an online petition advocating for democratic changes, find themselves in a similarly dire situation. Shockingly, many of them are serving sentences that far exceed the terms initially imposed on them.
In addition to these domestic human rights abuses, the UAE faces accusations of war crimes in Yemen and the provision of arms to the Libyan conflict. These transgressions against human rights and international law compound the egregious human rights abuses within the UAE.
Given the multitude of concerning facts and issues raised, it is increasingly challenging to have faith in the COP’s genuine commitment to addressing climate challenges. The presence of various hidden interests lurking behind the environmental discourse raises doubts about the sincerity of the efforts being made. Hosting such a major event like COP28 in the UAE appears to serve as a convenient cover, diverting attention from the grave violations of fundamental human rights that persist within the country and the interests of the oil business.
These concerns indeed give rise to a legitimate worry that COP28 will fall short in achieving significant outcomes – not only in effectively mitigating climate change but also in promoting and upholding human rights. It’s evident that the host country has ulterior motives, utilizing the convention as a platform to potentially whitewash its climate and human rights violations. This strategy is an attempt to bolster its international standing and influence within the global community, but it squanders the opportunity to genuinely combat climate change and contribute to building a sustainable world for future generations.