The leader of the upcoming United Nations climate summit, who is in charge of the oil and gas industry, cautioned leaders in September that climate change is a shared adversary and that we are running out of time to overcome it.
Several weeks later, Sultan al-Jaber
informed his colleagues in the oil industry
The speaker expressed that the industry has been perceived as contributing to the issue for a significant amount of time. He stated at a meeting in Iceland that reducing climate pollution will be a monumental undertaking that necessitates worldwide cooperation.
But the actions and plans of the United Arab Emirates petroleum company that al-Jaber heads are raising questions about his agenda as he prepares to lead a global debate about turning away from fossil fuels.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has pledged to invest $150 billion in the next five years to grow its oil and gas business. This industry was responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than 130 countries combined last year. However, an internal document from December 2022, obtained by POLITICO’s E&E News, reveals that there is a high chance the company will not be able to fulfill its promise of reducing these emissions within a couple of decades.
Al-Jaber’s diverse concerns serve as an illustration of the difficulty that the climate discussions, starting this month in Dubai, will face. In his role as the summit’s leader, Al-Jaber holds significant influence over the outcome of talks regarding the potential shutdown of oil, gas, and coal production in countries and the pace at which this would occur. Additionally, as the UAE’s top fossil fuel executive, he is strategizing ways to maintain the global dominance of oil and gas as energy sources while also asserting that they can contribute to addressing climate change.
The new strategy document reveals the company’s plans to prepare for potential controversies this year and improve its environmental reputation while also pursuing rapid growth.
The document that was not previously revealed, with each page marked as “strictly confidential,” details the company’s attempts to diminish the importance of their plans to speed up drilling and highlight their ventures in carbon capture and mangrove planting. This is in addition to the UAE government’s own extensive efforts in public relations and lobbying to portray themselves, as well as al-Jaber, as environmental advocates. This campaign was previously documented by E&E News earlier this year.
The discussions about the climate are facing difficulties, even though the conference is still weeks away. The U.S. and other nations are still working towards finding a consensus on the structure of a worldwide fund to assist developing countries in dealing with climate-related disasters. Al-Jaber has called for unity among countries, stating, “I do not want this fund to be devoid of resources.”
The selection of an oil tycoon as the president of this year’s summit, also known as COP28, has caused significant controversy. Lawmakers and environmentalists from both sides of the Atlantic have criticized the UAE’s decision, with Al-Jaber being at the center of the debate.
The company released a statement in response to a request for comment regarding their plans to combat these attacks. They stated, “We are unable to confirm a document that we have not viewed. Additionally, using an outdated and unreliable source as the basis for an article is a serious misrepresentation of the truth.” The company clarified that the language quoted from E&E News does not accurately reflect their strategy, methods, or progress.
The previous week, E&E News published two specific quotes from the document, prompting the company’s media team to reply, “We have already given thorough explanations to your inquiries.”
According to a source familiar with the matter, the document is a synopsis of ADNOC’s 2023 communications plan, created by the Emirati state-owned oil company. It was finalized in December 2022 and shared within the company in early January 2023, well before al-Jaber was appointed as the president of the summit.
The authors of the document predicted that there would be severe backlash, with commentary criticizing the appointment of al-Jaber as the “President of COP28” and comparing him to an “Oil and Gas CEO.” This prediction proved to be accurate, as news headlines reflected similar sentiments after al-Jaber’s official appointment.
The company planned to combat this by enlisting prominent business leaders, journalists, and government officials to support its reputation as a responsible and environmentally-friendly energy provider. This list of individuals included names like U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and former Bank of England chief Mark Carney, who both spoke highly of al-Jaber and the UAE’s involvement in climate negotiations. Kerry even introduced al-Jaber to influential figures in the U.S. during a private dinner a few months later.
The company plans to postpone a profitable competition for UAE drilling leases until “2024 post-COP” in order to avoid complicating its environmentally-friendly image, as stated in the document.
stated endorsement of the UAE’s significant contribution to promoting action on climate change.‘s top universities
Teamed up with the best universities in the country.
In November of last year, the goal was to boost international funding for renewable energy.
The State Department did not provide a direct response to inquiries about the document and its reference to Kerry. According to a spokesperson, Kerry has collaborated with the UAE to emphasize the necessary leadership for successful negotiations and outcomes that align with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This objective was established at the Paris climate conference in 2015.
becoming more and more unattainable.
The spokesperson for the agency was given anonymity due to lack of authorization to speak on the record.
In their reply to E&E News, ADNOC highlighted their commitment to invest a minimum of $15 billion in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the growth of their “low carbon” and renewable energy initiatives.
“According to a statement from a shared email account of ADNOC’s media team, as with most big companies, we consider various internal and external factors when deciding the timing of important business decisions and announcements.”
The spokesperson acknowledged the need to decrease emissions but also emphasized the importance of supplying the world’s energy in a responsible manner. They chose not to disclose their name for publication and stated that a combination of renewable and conventional energy sources will be necessary for a fair and responsible transition.
During December, the communication strategy document consistently justifies the significant role of oil and natural gas in the overall energy supply worldwide. This stance sharply differs from that of environmental organizations and the most at-risk countries, which argue that addressing the climate crisis necessitates a swift phase-out of fossil fuels.
The document states that although the climate community is urging for the reduction of fossil fuels with high intensity, ADNOC believes that both net-zero energy and lower carbon intensity energy, including oil and gas, are crucial for a practical and all-encompassing energy transition.
The statement includes that ADNOC can expect a significant increase in growth in 2023, both within their own country and on a global scale. This growth must be carefully handled in consideration of COP 28 and overall efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Three individuals who have either current or past connections to the Emirati government have confirmed that the information and communication outlined in the document aligns with what they have witnessed being circulated within the company or government offices. However, they have not personally seen this particular strategy summary. The timeline of communications presented in the document is consistent with the actual order of UAE announcements over the following year, even including events that took place after E&E News obtained the document.
One example was the oil conference that the UAE hosted last month — an annual gathering that was previously known as the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, or ADIPEC. This year, the event was called the Abu Dhabi International Progressive Energy Congress.
The document for December states that the exhibition hosted by ADNOC would act as an all-encompassing platform for solutions within the industry.
Ten months later, when the conference began, ADIPEC promised “a platform for the biggest energy producers and consumers to demonstrate their commitment to lowering emissions while driving investment into new technologies and clean energies.”
The report also mentions communication topics that ADNOC intended to prioritize during the year, including a “Technological Solutions campaign” in the second quarter and a “domestic sustainability campaign” in the subsequent three months. These plans aligned with the company’s announcements about a “$1 Million Decarbonization Technology Challenge,” winners of which will be revealed later this year, and a project for sustainable water supply in ADNOC’s onshore operations.
The December document also mentioned upcoming events such as the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in January, which will feature al-Jaber.
He delivered his inaugural address as the designated president of the summit.
In Houston, the CERAWeek energy industry conference is held annually in March.al-Jaber delivered a keynote address.
The company has implemented measures to tackle the risks mentioned in the document, including the lack of transparency in emissions. For the first time, ADNOC disclosed its carbon footprint in a July report, stating it emitted 24 million metric tons of CO2 in 2022. This was part of the company’s efforts to significantly reduce its impact on the climate.
The climate conference is overshadowed by the drilling plan.
Al-Jaber is the CEO of ADNOC, as well as the UAE’s industry minister and the chair of Masdar, the country’s international renewable energy developer, which the oil company partially owns.
In his role as leader of the climate summit, he will be responsible for creating the initial proposal for negotiations and collaborating with influential diplomats to secure a final agreement.
At the previous United Nations climate conference, Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian summit President and foreign minister, utilized his position to include a last-minute statement supporting the production of natural gas in the final document. This decision sparked anger among climate activists, as Egypt is one of the leading producers of natural gas globally.
In contrast, the United Arab Emirates is abundant in both oil and gas resources. Figures from the information company GlobalData show that ADNOC, the national oil company, produced over 2.2 million barrels of crude oil per day in the previous year, surpassing other major oil companies such as Chevron, Shell, and Petrobras.
In November of last year, the business declared its intention to pursue…
increase its ability to produce crude oil
The goal of reaching a production rate of 5 million barrels per day by 2027 has been postponed from its original target of the end of the decade. Progress towards this expansion has already started, as oil services company SLB announced in January that they secured a contract worth $1.4 billion to support ADNOC’s drilling efforts.
ADNOC has chosen to delay granting its most significant reward, which is new drilling contracts. Rather than proceeding with its “upstream exploration bid round” in the fourth quarter of this year, the company has opted to do so after the climate summit, according to the strategy document.
Wood Mackenzie, a research firm, reports that in past contests for upstream exploration, the UAE has awarded contracts to foreign oil companies like Eni from Italy and Occidental Petroleum from the U.S. Additionally, state-owned oil companies like IndianOil, Pakistan Petroleum, and Petronas from Brazil have also been granted access to the UAE’s mineral resources.
The postponement results in the climate conference coinciding with negotiations for billion-dollar drilling contracts in the UAE involving oil executives and national energy ministers.
The use of drones to plant millions of mangrove seedlings was reported, however, there is a strong chance that the company will not follow through with their decarbonization plans.
“Take proactive measures to position and safeguard.”
Before the summit, the document reveals that the company planned to prepare for any potential criticism by taking proactive measures to safeguard the reputations of the state oil firm and other organizations where al-Jaber holds a leadership position, including COP28, Masdar, and the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology.
According to the document, this will be achieved through the implementation of “synchronized and organized communication strategies” and a regular coordination meeting. ADNOC will have a significant role in COP28, as it is a key component of the national effort.
The UAE presidency’s representative for the climate summit refuted any claims that ADNOC had influenced the event.
The spokesperson, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that the COP28 staff work independently and in collaboration with the U.N. climate agency, when responding to inquiries from E&E News.
“The spokesperson further stated that the COP28 Presidency has its own separate office, employees, and a dedicated IT system.”
The strategy document identified several risks to the company’s reputation, including a “lack of clarity” on how much ADNOC is spending on developing renewable energy and implementing projects to capture and store carbon pollution. Al-Jaber has publicly pushed COME
This plan aims to triple the amount of renewable energy in the world and get rid of the use of fossil fuels without any carbon capture or storage.
permit the ongoing utilization of petroleum and natural gas
In locations where costly methods of capturing carbon are utilized.
During the start of the ADIPEC conference on October 2nd, al-Jaber urged oil executives to demonstrate that they are a crucial part of the solution.
According to a spokesperson for the company, ADNOC is leading the way for the oil industry by implementing initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and increasing investments in renewable and low-carbon projects. One such project, funded by the company, will capture and store 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year. This will bring their total carbon capture capacity to 2.3 million tons annually, with plans for additional projects in progress.
In 2030, ADNOC intends to collect 5 million tons of CO2 annually and increase their renewable energy production to 100 gigawatts, surpassing the current combined capacity of Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. This information was shared by the UAE-headquartered International Renewable Energy Agency, a government organization dedicated to advocating for the utilization of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.
However, the December plan document highlighted a discrepancy between commitments and implementation as a significant threat to the company’s reputation. As an instance, it noted a lack of transparency regarding the company’s investments in carbon capture and renewable energy.
The company stated in a reply to E&E News that in January 2023, they have set aside an initial $15 billion for low-carbon solutions and significant decarbonization endeavors. These include initiatives such as carbon capture, electrification, advancements in CO2 absorption technology, and increased investments in hydrogen and renewable energy sources.
However, the company hasn’t elaborated on the amount of money it intends to spend on particular technologies or projects, aside from a $3.8 billion plan to electrify its offshore oil and gas operations.
Even in July, when ADNOC moved forward its target date for reaching net-zero emissions from midcentury to 2045, the company did not detail how much capital it plans to direct toward its renewables and carbon capture goals. Instead, it promised only that the company would “continue to mature our abatement projects to ensure tangible and measurable progress,” as well as “integration into our business plan.”
The representative for ADNOC stated that it is customary for “major, global companies” to evaluate and handle their potential risks. They also noted that the company has made significant strides in implementing their decarbonization plan.
The strategy document emphasizes the importance of having others endorse the company’s credibility on climate-related matters.
According to the document, individuals in positions of leadership in energy companies, trade associations, and other organizations have the potential to increase awareness and comprehension of ADNOC’s commitment to sustainability and transitioning to cleaner energy sources. These individuals can also verify ADNOC’s reputation as a responsible energy supplier.
“According to the document highlighted in bold and blue, it will be crucial to activate validators by 2023.”
ADNOC identified 27 individuals as key players in the energy industry, including government officials, financiers, and academics. These individuals, such as Kerry, Blas, and Carney, were targeted by the company as “energy influencers.” Carney, now a leader in the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, is working towards promoting sustainability in the finance sector.
The document states that the list of potential “validators” was or will be devised in collaboration with the COP and Masdar teams.
The ADNOC representative refused to provide specifics on how much the strategy has been put into action or changed in recent months, during which there have been numerous damaging revelations and news articles about the close connections between company officials and the COP28 team.
Despite facing obstacles, al-Jaber, who is known as the representative for the UAE’s environmental and energy initiatives, has received significant backing from influential individuals, which aligns with ADNOC’s goal of building strong relationships.
Kerry joined al-Jaber at the Atlantic Council forum. During the think tank event, Kerry spoke with The Associated Press and praised al-Jaber as an excellent selection to lead COP28. He noted that the oil company al-Jaber heads recognizes the importance of transitioning to cleaner energy sources.
Several months after the event, Blas commended al-Jaber on X (previously known as Twitter) for giving a thought-provoking speech at CERAWeek that addressed the oil industry’s contribution to the Earth’s temperature rise. Blas praised him for bringing attention to the pressing issue of climate change. The media also positively covered al-Jaber’s presence at the energy conference, as mentioned in the document.
In September, Carney praised the UAE’s initiative to invest $4.5 billion in promoting renewable energy in Africa.
In a post on X, Carney mentioned the @COP28_UAE initiative, highlighting its significance, timeliness, and potential for significant investments in the African energy transition. The post also included a hashtag for al-Jaber.
Blas and Carney did not provide a response to inquiries regarding their mentions in the document, but their organizations did.
Kerri Chyka, a spokesperson for Bloomberg News, stated that Javier Blas is a well-regarded journalist with over two decades of experience in energy coverage. She also mentioned that his journalistic work speaks for itself.
Elizabeth Nicoletti, a representative for the climate coalition, stated that Carney and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero are backing various COP28 efforts in order to facilitate the flow of significant investments worldwide and expedite the shift towards a net zero economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
In May, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and a potential U.S. presidential candidate, wrote a piece for Bloomberg Opinion praising al-Jaber as the ideal leader for COP28. Bloomberg, who is a billionaire and the main owner of Bloomberg LP, is also a co-chair of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.
Bloomberg LP did not provide a response to requests for comment.
Karl Mathiesen, Sara Schonhardt, Ben Lefebvre, and Zack Colman were all contributors to the report.
This article was originally published in Climatewire on November 8th.