Opinions were starkly divided when the CEO of ADNOC, one of the strongest oil contributors in the world, was appointed president of the annual 28th Climate Change Conference—like “the CEO of a cigarette company [presiding] over a conference on lung cancer” said Andreas Sieber, a powerful climate activist. 

The choice catalysed mass global controversy, with Sky News having revealed the UAE missed its clean power target in August and documents recently leaked to the BBC hinting the UAE aligned its role at COP28 in order to secure new oil and gas deals.

It did not go unnoticed that ADNOC, while its CEO hosts COP28, maintains its thorough plans to nearly double its oil production to 5 million by 2027 in line with a $150billion investment in oil and gas across 7 years. Al Jaber, however, did announce this will maintain production levels and not increase output.

After a chaotic start to the conference within its heated geopolitical context, Al Jaber shocked the world after he successfully won the first pledge for nearly all countries to transition away from fossil fuels—a monumentally celebrated achievement. 

This is when we saw the 198 parties agree to join forces and recalibrate energy structures for the first time in 25 years; the conference having failed to reach an agreement on this direction since 1995.

The UAE was celebrated by breaking the long silence with concise and solid statements, marking a pivotal shift in climate discourse and the collaborative action against it. The agreement promised to triple renewable energy across various global targets by 2030 and reconstruct global financial climate structures, delving into new sectors like health and previously ignored sectors like education.

It was announced that there will be more finance invested in renewable energy sources than fossil fuels this year, leaving large audiences deeming COP28 a success.

Though a relentless oil boss, Al Jaber’s climate efforts are not light—founding MASDAR renewables in 2006 which has since had strong global contributions and running the UAE’s climate diplomacy for a total of 9 years. His efforts at COP28 helped ignite crucial discussions of gas and oil emissions, food systems, biodiversity loss and the boosting of renewable sources; overall capturing  170+ new international pledges which is over double that of COP27.

So was the decision to appoint ADNOC CEO Sultan Al Jaber an obscene hypocrisy or was it a unique wild success, and will the various announcements made at COP28 hold their value across 2024?

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