Fossil fuel bosses, controversial invites and mixed messages: Here's how COP28 is shaping up so far

COP28 climate talks are due to take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates later this year.
COP28 climate talks are due to take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates later this year.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
By Euronews Green

COP28 is due to take place in November in Dubai and some decisions around the climate conference have already caused controversy.

It's just over six months until the UN’s annual climate summit takes place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

As invitations go out and policy debates begin, there’s already been controversy around COP28. From the UAE’s choice of President to lead the summit to human rights concerns and comments about fossil fuels, the event’s not off to a smooth start.

So what do we know so far about COP28? Here’s a look at the biggest stories.

Fossil fuel boss picked as President of the climate conference

In January, the UAE confirmed that Sultan Al Jaber had been appointed as the president of COP28. Jaber is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). the biggest oil producer in the country and the 12th biggest in the world. 

His appointment hasn’t come without controversy. Climate leaders and campaigners have voiced a number of concerns calling it a “blatant conflict of interest”.

“You wouldn’t invite arms dealers to lead peace talks. So why let oil executives lead climate talks?” Alice Harrison, fossil fuel campaign leader at Global Witness, said at the time.

Al Jaber says he is approaching COP28 with a “strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition.”

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
Sultan Al-Jaber is the United Arab Emirates' pick to lead the upcoming COP28 climate talks.AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

UAE says the world isn’t ready to switch off fossil fuels

Earlier this month, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Almheiri said that the world wasn’t ready to phase out fossil fuels. She told Reuters news agency that it would hurt countries which either depend on them for revenue or couldn’t easily replace them with renewables.

The UAE says that countries should agree to phase out fuel emissions, not the production of gas, oil and coal, at the UN climate talks in November.

Almheiri instead says we should be looking at carbon capture and storage technology while ramping up renewable energy.

Syrian President Assad invited to COP28

The UAE has invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the United Nations climate summit.

A post from the embassy in Damascus said that the President has received an invitation to attend from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

If he goes, it will be the first global summit he has attended since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 which has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced half of the population from their homes.

Assad’s attendance could also cause tensions with countries that have placed sanctions on Syria. The invitation was branded as a “sick joke” by human rights campaigners Amnesty International.

Representatives of COP28 have told the press that they are “committed to an inclusive COP process that produces transformational solutions.”

Adding that, “This can only happen if we have everyone in the room.”

SANA via AP, File
Syrian President Bashar Assad has received an invitation to attend the upcoming COP28 climate talks.SANA via AP, File

What are the EU’s biggest priorities at COP28?

Back in March, EU nations agreed to push for the phase-out of fossil fuels at the climate conference. It was part of the bloc’s promise to support and accelerate the energy transition ahead of COP28 in Dubai.

“The shift towards a climate-neutral economy will require the global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,” the European Council wrote in a statement.

But, expecting a backlash to fossil fuel-based pledges, the EU is also looking at renewable energy pledges. At a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark’s Global Climate Policy Minister Dan Jørgensen suggested it could be time for specific targets on renewable energy.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also joined the call for countries to set worldwide renewables targets and there has been support from the International Renewable Energy Agency too.

Von der Leyen said these targets could be developed in time for COP28 in November.

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