A representative from the State Department stated that John Kerry was committed to ensuring that Sultan al-Jaber provided meaningful suggestions for addressing climate change and followed through on his promises. | Photo by Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images
By Emma Dumain and Sara Schonhardt
defended al-Jaber as a “terrific choice” to preside over the summit, used the dinner to introduce the oil chief to people with an influential role in the U.S. climate debate.
The guest list obtained by E&E News revealed that individuals who were invited to the March dinner included Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), both members of Congress, as well as Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, and Edward Luce, the U.S. national editor for the Financial Times. All four have confirmed their attendance, either personally or through their representatives.
Curtis and Whitehouse have contrasting views on the solution to the climate crisis, highlighting the divide that Kerry and others aim to bridge in the upcoming discussions.
Curtis is the leader of the Conservative Climate Caucus in the House, which has 80 members. He acknowledges the existence of human-caused climate change and recognizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but he also defends the use of fossil fuels. Whitehouse is the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and has a strong stance on addressing climate change. He advocates for the elimination of fossil fuels.
There is a stark contrast in the views expressed regarding the main guest at the dinner. Whitehouse and 132 other legislators from the U.S and Europe are advocating for the removal of al-Jaber as the designated president for the climate summit. They believe that his position as a prominent figure in the oil and gas industry could potentially hinder discussions on implementing a plan to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
Curtis, on the other hand, commended al-Jaber’s appointment as “an excellent chance to showcase the importance of fossil fuels in decreasing emissions.”
According to him, all energy experts agree that we will still be relying on fossil fuels in the year 2050. Therefore, it is not feasible to discuss completely eliminating fossil fuels.
The Chamber will be organizing a trade mission to the United Arab Emirates in order to facilitate connections between numerous American companies and potential investment prospects. Additionally, the Chamber will also be leading a large delegation to COP28.
Others in attendance back in March included Fred Kempe, CEO of the Atlantic Council; Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, a global environmental organization; and Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute.
Representatives from these organizations have stated that they are actively collaborating with leaders at every level to promote action and advocate for impactful results at the current climate negotiations.
Alison Cinnamond, media director for the World Resources Institute, stated that Ani attended [the dinner] as a show of support for vulnerable nations and to promote ambitious solutions for climate change. This included directly expressing our perspectives to the COP 28 presidency, as we have done in the past with other parties.
Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the climate think tank E3G, stated that it is not uncommon to have such meetings before prominent climate summits.
Secretary Kerry’s responsibilities include attending various events around the world to engage with ministers, leaders, and others. The embassy of the country hosting the COP also holds gatherings in Washington and other important cities prior to the COP to facilitate outreach and discussions.
The UAE has been urging nations to set goals for tripling their renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency. However, they have not shown the same level of dedication towards gradually eliminating the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
The spokesperson for the State Department stated that Kerry was dedicated to ensuring that al-Jaber presents significant proposals for addressing climate change and follows through on his promises.
The spokesman stated that he would hold al-Jaber accountable for his promises, stating “actions speak louder than words.”