A new investigation by Global Witness appears to show that the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) used its CEO Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber’s COP28 presidency to pursue oil and gas deals.  

The report, published on 5 June, alleges that ADNOC strategically positioned top company executives on the COP28 organising committee, potentially exerting undue influence.  

Moreover, it claims that ADNOC employees had been reportedly reading emails intended for UN staff, sparking concerns about privacy breaches.  

To manage the ensuing crisis, which appeared late last year, ADNOC reportedly enlisted the services of a US PR company to mitigate negative publicity

However, during COP28 in November, Al-Jaber denied all allegations, stating that every meeting centred around and discussed the “COP28 agenda” to implement and keep temperature increases of “1.5°C within reach”.  

The just-released investigation shows that ADNOC went after oil, gas and petrochemical deals close to $100bn, a fivefold increase from 2022 and significantly more in dollar terms than in the last four years combined. 

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Responding to the investigation, US House Representative Rashida Tlaib said: “This new report is a disturbing warning about the potential for further fossil fuel corruption at COP29, which will also be hosted by another fossil fuel executive.”  

ADNOC seemingly sought deals with companies from at least 12 countries, including 11 of the 16 countries identified as key targets in a leaked pre-COP briefing document.  

This involved ADNOC and BP announcing a collaboration to acquire a 50% stake in Israel’s NewMed Energy for gas development expansion and making two bids for a stake in Braskem, the top petrochemical producer in Latin America, which is partly owned by Brazil’s state-controlled oil and gas company Petrobras.  

ADNOC also finalised contracts valued at approximately $17bn to develop the UAE’s Hail and Ghasha gas fields in cooperation with Russia’s Lukoil and Germany’s Wintershall Dea. 

Another US representative, Lloyd Doggett, said: “Global Witness has documented how COP is being co-opted by fossil fuel interests. With the overheating of our planet already accelerating death and destruction, I am urging the adoption of strong conflict of interest rules to prevent special interests from controlling the agenda.” 

The fossil fuels lobby  

In late November 2023, just days before Al-Jaber was officially appointed COP28 president, documents leaked to the BBC and the Centre for Climate Reporting, a not-for-profit investigative journalism organisation, appeared to show that his team had sought to lobby on oil and gas deals in the lead-up to the summit. 

According to the report, Global Witness contacted officials involved in negotiations.  

Al-Jaber has refuted that the leaked documents were used as talking points for oil and gas deals before and during the COP. 

One COP28 official stated they were present multiple times in the UAE when top ADNOC officials and Al-Jaber himself openly discussed deals, and the leaked talking points were part of every presentation leading up to COP28, and during COP28 events.

The official mentioned having access to email records but lost it after their contract ended. These emails reportedly show that ADNOC had shared the documents the BBC and CCR leaked with country delegations and company officials. 

A December 2023 investigation from environmental campaign group A Kick Big Polluters Out Coalition revealed a large number of fossil fuel lobbyists attended COP28 (2,456), with 178 identified as guests of the UAE. Among these were 17 top fossil fuel company representatives.  

ADNOC has described Global Witness’ findings as “inaccurate” and its allegations of making oil and gas deals as “false, not true, and incorrect”.  

A COP28 spokesperson said: “Made up allegations about conversations that never took place and attempt to discredit the hard work and tremendous accomplishments of the Presidency do not merit consideration.” 

A senior investigator at Global Witness, Patrick Galey, said: “COP28 was a fossil fuel festival, and COP29 looks to be going in the same direction. The world simply cannot keep wasting these opportunities to tackle a climate crisis that is already wreaking havoc.” 

Offshore Technology was unable to reach ADNOC by phone for comments. 

Azerbaijan will host COP29 this year, despite the country’s long-standing conflict with ethnic Armenians in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

“The decision represented something of a passing of the torch from one petrostate to another,” Global Witness said in the report.