The United Arab Emirates’ team organizing the COP28 climate talks that begin this week was planning to use its position as host of the summit to strike new oil and gas deals with foreign governments, a cache of leaked documents shows.
The documents, which were published by the UK-registered Centre for Climate Reporting, appear to be briefing notes for Sultan Al Jaber — who will preside over the UN climate negotiations — for meetings with foreign officials in the run-up to the summit. They are organized as country profiles, with each document describing talking points for Al Jaber to raise in the meetings.
The documents detail each country’s climate progress in key areas — including finance, decarbonizing food systems, uptake of renewables — and identify how their ambitions could be raised.
But among those points are also several suggestions to offer new oil and gas projects with the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), which Al Jaber leads.
ADNOC did not reply to CNN’s request for comment, but the company previously told CNN that any suggestion it was using the climate talks to promote itself “is incorrect and is baseless.”
The documents were first shared with the BBC.
A COP28 team spokesperson told CNN in an email: “The documents referred to in the BBC article are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings. It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting.”
The spokesperson did not address CNN’s question as to whether the COP28 team was operating independently of ADNOC, nor did they explicitly deny that business interests were discussed.
The UAE has already been at the center of widespread criticism for appointing its top oil and gas chief to preside over COP28. As Al Jaber helms the summit, ADNOC is planning to expand its oil and gas production, according to an analysis from a fossil fuel watchdog, CNN has previously reported. The wider ADNOC Group is expanding abroad in a number of other areas as well, including petrochemicals and renewables.
In addition to documents’ talking points around climate issues and promoting ADNOC are other suggestions to promote projects with the UAE’s main renewables vehicle, Masdar, which Al Jaber also runs.
It’s not clear how many of the meetings actually took place, but the notes offer an insight into how the team hoped to use them as a vehicle for new deals. CNN has reached out to the 15 countries mentioned, two of which confirmed a meeting but said no business discussions took place, while another two replied to say no meeting occurred.
The US, China, France, Germany and the UK are among the countries with briefing notes published by the Centre for Climate Reporting. The organization said there were 27 country profiles in all, but that it had decided to share 15.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) host country, which changes every year, typically sends its nominated president-designate to meet with foreign officials to try and ramp up climate action ahead of the talks. The briefing notes read as would be expected for such meetings, until the end of each country’s notes, where suggestions to promote ADNOC and Masdar are included.
UN rules say these meeting should not be used to promote the economic interests of the host country. According to the UN’s climate body, the UNFCCC, an elected or appointed COP official should remain “impartial” throughout the process. They are expected to act “without bias, prejudice, favoritism, caprice, self-interest, preference or deference” in the process, according to the body’s code of ethics. “They are also expected to ensure that personal views and convictions do not compromise or appear to compromise their role and functions as UNFCCC Officer.”
Among the talking points outlined in the leaked briefing notes was that ADNOC was ready to “expand” its provision liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Germany. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a significant contributor to climate change. The leaked notes said ADNOC has already provided some LNG to the country in February 2023 to help it wean of Russian gas, part of Germany’s new strategy since Russia launched its war on Ukraine.
ADNOC has the ambition to supply up to 25% of Germany’s hydrogen import demand, the notes say. Hydrogen can be made from natural gas, which the UAE has large reserves of.
Another document showed a talking point for China centered around ADNOC’s growth supporting energy security in the country, saying that the company was willing to “jointly evaluate” opportunities for LNG projects in places including Mozambique, Canada and Australia.
The UAE wants to be removed from Brazil’s tax haven list, which would allow Masdar to invest more in the country, the briefing for that country showed. They also suggested Venezuelan “resources” could be monetized, since the US relaxed its energy sanctions on the country, and that ADNOC and Masdar could help Azerbaijan become an energy hub for Europe, “exporting natural gas and potentially clean electricity.”
The other briefing notes shared were for Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. The notes did not suggest oil and gas projects would be discussed with all those countries.
For the US, for example, the briefing notes touch on potential renewable energy deals, saying Masdar hoped to grow its presence in the US by carrying out “acquisitions” in the short term.
The COP28 climate talks come at a critical time, as scientists say the world is “virtually certain” to have experienced its hottest year on record in 2023, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe, and the Earth is approaching a series of crucial tipping points.
Greenpeace International said that the content of the briefings, if true, were “totally unacceptable and a real scandal.”
“The climate summit leader should be focused on advancing climate solutions impartially, not backroom deals that are fuelling the crisis,” Kaisa Kosonen, policy coordinator at Greenpeace International, said in a statement. “This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared when the CEO of an oil company was appointed to the role.”
“This summit is the world’s most powerful forum to avert the biggest threat to the survival of humankind, and we urge the Presidency to act accordingly.”
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