John Kerry tells AP he supports UAE oil chief overseeing COP28

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – US climate chief John Kerry supports the United Arab Emirates’ decision to appoint the CEO of a state oil company to chair the upcoming UN climate talks in Dubai, citing his work on renewable energy projects.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, the former US Secretary of State acknowledged that the Emirates and other countries that rely on fossil fuels to finance their coffers face a search for “some balance”.

However, he rejected the idea that the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber should be automatically disqualified because he runs the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. But activists compared this to “a request to the arms dealers to hold peace talks” when the authorities announced his appointment on Thursday.

“I think that Dr. Sultan al-Jaber is a great choice because he is the head of the company. This company knows it has to make the transition,” Kerry said after attending an energy conference in the Emirates capital. “He knows – and the UAE leadership is committed to making the change.”

Still, Abu Dhabi plans to increase its crude oil production from 4 million barrels a day to 5 million, while the UAE pledges to be carbon neutral by 2050 – a target that is difficult to estimate and that the Emirates have yet to fully explain, as soon as you explain you will reach.

Kerry pointed to a speech al-Jaber gave in Abu Dhabi on Saturday in which he called on the COP – or upcoming Conference of the Parties – to move “from goals to implementation through mitigation, adaptation, financing and loss and damage”. . Al-Jaber also warned that the world “needs to be honest with itself about how much progress we have actually made and how much we need to go further and faster.”

“He made it absolutely clear that we are not moving fast enough. We must reduce emissions. We need to start accelerating this transition significantly,” said Kerry. “So I am very confident that the right issues will come up on the table, that they will act on it and make the countries recognize their responsibilities.”

Every year, the country hosting the UN negotiations appoints a person to lead the talks. Hosts usually choose an experienced diplomat, as conversations between competing nations and their interests can be incredibly difficult to navigate. The position of the person nominated as “President of the COP” is confirmed by the delegates at the beginning of the talks, usually without objection.

Al-Jaber is a trusted confidant of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He also spearheaded a once-ambitious project to build a $22 billion “carbon-neutral” city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi – an effort that was later scaled back after the global financial crisis that hit the Emirates hard since 2008 . Today he also serves as the Chairman of Masdar, a clean energy company that grew out of the project and has spent or committed tens of billions of dollars to projects around the world.

However, al-Jaber remains skeptical among activists. A call by countries including India and the United States to phase out oil and natural gas was never publicly discussed at COP27 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November.

Activists fear that the COP, which is being held for the second consecutive year in a Middle Eastern country that depends on the sale of fossil fuels, could see something similar in the Emirates.

Asked about these concerns, Kerry said: “I don’t think the UAE was involved in changing that.”

“There will be some level of scrutiny – and I think it will be very constructive,” said the former US senator and 2004 presidential candidate. “This will help people stay on track here.”

“I think this is a time, a new time, for accountability,” he added.

However, the Emirates and the United States maintain close military ties, despite the fact that the federation makes political decisions that Washington does not like.

Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port is the US Navy’s busiest port outside of America. About 3,500 US troops are stationed in the country, including at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi and at 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 with Ukraine has left the continent dependent on Moscow’s natural gas to heat its homes in winter. Although helped by an unseasonably warm winter, Europeans are looking to source gas from elsewhere while also looking to renewable energy to fill any gaps they can.

“No country benefits when a petro-dictator is able to control its future, its prices and its economy through reckless behavior,” Kerry said, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“Until anything comes out of this that will change things for the better, it’s Europe’s deep commitment to massive reductions in emissions and to completely changing the nature of their energy supply,” Kerry said.


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Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press


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