Cop28 opens in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Picture: COP28 / Christopher Pike)

The Cop28 conference could be the biggest climate cop-out yet. It sounds made up that the president of a global summit on tackling climate change is the head of an oil company. 

But Sultan al-Jaber—chair of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national oil company—is the president of Cop 28. He welcomed delegates in Dubai on Thursday, saying he’d made a “bold” choice to “proactively engage with oil and gas companies”.

The day he was forced to deny allegations that he’d used the conference to make oil deals. “These allegations are false,” he protested to reporters. “Not true, incorrect, not accurate. It’s an attempt to undermine the work of the Cop 28 presidency. 

Leaked documents showed the Cop 28 presidency had meetings with other governments that included “talking points” about al-Jaber’s company selling oil and gas. A group of journalists from the Centre for Climate Reporting obtained documents.  

It was met with fury from climate activists. Alice Harrison, the fossil fuel campaign lead at Global Witness, said, “The international climate process has been hijacked by the oil and gas industry. 

“This leak must be the final nail in the coffin of the long-debunked idea that the fossil fuel industry can play any part in the solution to the crisis that it created.”

The problem goes far deeper than one corrupt Cop president. The overwhelming message from world leaders so far at Cop is the lie that it’s possible to burn fossil fuel, meet emissions targets and reduce temperatures. 

This year temperatures reached record-breaking highs, and scientists gave their final warning that world leaders must take decisive action to stop climate change. 

Earlier this month, the UN released a report that found that states, including the US, India, Russia, Canada, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were planning a massive expansion in the use of fossil fuels. It found that no state that had pledged to meet net-zero plans by 2050 had committed to even drastically reducing fossil fuel production. 

On Thursday, Rishi Sunak said that Britain’s role at Cop28 was to “set the tone and show political will”—but he has also signed off on new fossil fuel projects. In September the Tories permitted bosses to start the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea. 

An Extinction Rebellion (XR) statement said it’s essential to rage against our leaders here and abroad. “Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says Britain is a ‘world leader’ on climate,” it said. 

“But he has vowed to ‘max out’ Britain’s oil and gas reserves, and has approved the development of the Rosebank oil field. Its output will generate emissions equal to the annual emissions of the 28 poorest countries combined.” 

It added, “We won’t let a tiny club of leaders and industrialists in wealthy countries ramp up fossil fuel production while lecturing the rest of the world on climate action.” 

Meanwhile, world leaders have tried to clamp down on solidarity with Palestine at the conference. Mesiah Burciaga-Hameed from  the Indigenous People’s Caucus, told the conference, “As Indigenous people of the world, we are heartbroken to see the genocide and ecocide in Palestine. There is no climate justice without human rights.”

The organisers cut out Asad Rehman, director of the charity War on Want, when he called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza over a video link at the conference. 

After another year of climate and imperialist horror, no one should have any illusions about what the Cop process is really for. Our hope lies in mass and militant action from below that can take on the profit system driving us to disaster. 

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