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Cop28 host UAE 'failed to report' decade of methane emissions to UN

New revelations add to pressure on under-fire Cop28 president and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil company, Sultan Al Jaber
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the UAE's industry minister, is the first oil executive to take on the role of Cop president (Reuters)
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE's industry minister, is the first oil executive to be Cop president (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), host of the upcoming UN climate summit Cop28, has reportedly failed to report its state-owned oil company’s methane emissions to the UN for over a decade.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), whose chief executive, Sultan Al Jaber, has been appointed president of the upcoming climate summit, also set a leaked methane target that exceeded the level it claimed it had already reached in 2022, according to the Guardian.

Jaber’s appointment as president-designate of the UN summit, set to be held in Dubai in November, has drawn fierce criticism for what is deemed a clear conflict of interest, with EU and US lawmakers demanding he be replaced and campaigners calling for him to step down from his industry roles.

Jaber will be the first oil executive to assume the role of Cop president. Abu Dhabi is already facing mounting criticism over its role as the climate summit host, as the UAE is among the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas. 

Climate Action Tracker denounced the UAE’s 2050 energy strategy as “insufficient”, with its renewable energy pledges dwarfed by its planned expansion of investments in oil and gas services.

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These latest revelations further undermine Jaber’s calls for “brutal honesty” from participating countries about the global failure to combat climate breakdown at the summit.

Methane is the second most powerful gas contributor to rising temperatures. While it has a relatively short atmospheric lifeline, its warming capacity is 28 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

According to the IEA’s Global Methane Tracker, slashing methane emissions could have cost less than 3 percent of profits accrued by oil and gas companies in 2022. This has made a sharp reduction in methane emissions a priority for the UN

Since 2014, the UN’s climate body has required countries to submit their methane emissions every two years. Unlike other petrostates, the UAE has consistently failed to do so.

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In October 2022, ADNOC pledged that any methane leaks would be restricted to 0.15 percent of gas produced by 2025. However, this target is more than the level of emissions produced by the UAE in 2022.

Furthermore, the company's recent “net zero” emissions target from 2045 to 2050 is only based on “scope 1” and “scope 2” emissions that result from exploration and production of oil and gas, and excludes “scope 3” emissions, resulting from the burning of oil and gas it sells.

Aware of the criticism it faces over its hosting of the summit, and Jaber's presidency, the Emirati company has hired US lobbyists to clean up its image.

According to documents filed to the US Department of Justice, PR firm First International Resources is tasked with strengthening “the overall reputation and standing of the UAE, His Excellency Dr Sultan Al Jaber and Cop28 among Western audiences".

Critics also accuse the UAE of using AI-generated bots to disseminate posts supporting Jaber on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Human rights activists have further condemned the decision to host the summit in the Gulf state because of its track record in jailing dissidents.

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