Oil magnate to lead global conference to phase out oil, and why not?

Singling out ADNOC or Dubai points to selective memory


February 11, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Oil magnate to lead global conference to phase out oil, and why not?

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)

There has been an unseemly controversy over the location of next Climate Change Summit (COP28) which will be held in Dubai later this year, with many western analysts, environmentalists and media criticising the choice of UAE as well as Chairman of the national oil company ADNOC Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber as the President of COP28. But this criticism is baseless as most of the COP meetings held so far have been in big producers or consumers of fossil fuels and Big Oil or Big Coal have always been present at the centre-stage in every single climate change meet so far.

2/5 - (45 votes)

Alfred Bernhard Nobel

‘Merchant of Death’ was the term used to describe Alfred Bernhard Nobel, a Swedish scientist and businessman who made millions selling dynamite, that he had invented. These explosives became the game changer in history of wars. Dynamite was the single most destructive invention ever in the history of weaponry that is still used in battles of 21st Century. European newspapers stated in 1860s that Alfred Nobel ‘made fortune by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before’.

More than 25 years later, Nobel decided to donate more than 90 pc of his life earnings to create a symbol of respect and honour for the people who contributed to the betterment of mankind. One of the categories, globally most recognised Nobel Peace Prize, continues to inspire the billions of the world even today in 21st century. The Nobel Peace Prize is given annually to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of humanity in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace.

‘Merchant of Death’ is now known as ‘Messiah of Peace’! The fortune made by Alfred Nobel by ‘killing people’ is now deployed to honour fortunate few for saving the mankind. Since Nobel’s death by end of 19th century, the world awaits every year for the Nobel Peace prize and get inspired in this chaotic world.

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, ADNOC Drilling is the largest national drilling company in the Middle East by rig fleet size.

Over a century later, another person is being handed out similar uncomplimentary sobriquets. The President of COP28, United Nations’ 28th annual Conference of Parties to be held later this year in Dubai, is now almost referred to as ‘Merchant of Disasters’. He is Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). He is also called as ‘fox in the hen-house’ by many in the western media and their compatriot green activists.

The detractors, who mainly belong to the countries that bear the highest degree of responsibility for total inaction or at best delayed and diluted action on climate change for over three decades and making COPs as theatric exercise of talk shows, have gone in overdrive in their comments against Al Jaber.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and World Meteorological Organisation, WMO, was one of the recipients of Nobel Peace Prize for its studious and untiring global efforts to highlight the fatal risks facing the planet due to global warming and climate change. Right from early 1990s, IPCC has been warning the policy makers that root cause of climate change is the emission of the Green House Gases or GHGs. Carbon dioxide emitted from burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, is the biggest contributor to climate change. Key solution to this problem of planetary proportion, therefore, is get rid of fossil fuel all together.

The latest report of IPCC released in April last year stated that ‘the global temperature will stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach ‘net zero’. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s; for 2°C it is in the early 2070s. The short term indication that world is on such net zero path to achieve the target of 2°C is that all global greenhouse gas emissions must  peak before 2025 at the latest.

Here comes the illusive reason of shocking reactions reported in the press about United Arab Emirates’ decision to appoint Al Jaber as the President of COP 28. Mainstream media, read the western media, believes that the UAE is not the right place to hold COP28, and even if it is held, then Al Jaber who is the CEO of the largest oil producing company in UAE cannot be appointed  as President of COP28 as the meeting is meant to finalise the timeframe and measures needed for phasing out fossil fuels.

While on the surface, the critics’ views may be appealing, there are quite a few backstories to this tale. Let us understand the perspective.  First of all, UAE is the 7th largest oil producing country in the world. The 4th largest oil producing and 6th largest gas producing country, Canada, has already hosted  COP11.

Similarly, the 5th largest gas producing country, Qatar was the host country for COP18. As regard coal producing countries, 2nd largest (India), 3rd largest (Indonesia), 7th largest (South Africa), 9th largest (Germany) and 10th largest (Poland) have all held COPs once or more than once. Each country’s Environment or Energy Ministers, Oil and Gas Ministers as well as the officials handling the fossil fuel have presided over these COPs. The other major stakeholders in fossil fuels as producers and consumers, USA, Russia and China, are yet to hold any COPs.

None of these host countries have demonstrated any decline in emissions of GHGs since their role as host of respective COP meetings, though a country like India has shown national and international leadership in generating the nationwide ‘Net Zero’ campaign through lifestyle change and International Solar Alliance.

As against this scenario, it is noteworthy that UAE’s CO2 emission has reduced over years and it appears to have peaked in 2015. None of the countries from where past Presidents of COPs came can boast of such achievements that have been made under leadership of Sultan Al Jaber.

First of all, contrary to the popular belief, he does not belong to Royal Family of UAE. He is a professional at core and with a passion for innovation. He has risen to his present position only through exemplary career progression and not due to any familial linkages. His chemical engineering and management education including doctorate-level studies from  well-known universities in UK and USA, which were financed by merit-based scholarships that he won.

He rose to become an influential member of the United Arab Emirates government, holding roles as a Minister of industry, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and chairing the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, otherwise known as Masdar.

His ambition seems to be forging ahead with renewable energy and rightly so. His strategy seems to be clear — financing the development of renewable energy by fortune from oil business.  His Masdar project is a perfect example of this model. It is based on Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and involves using the large amount of sun hat the UAE receives through the year by installing solar power generating units be it on the small rooftops or through immense solar parks that are spread across large tracts of deserts in the country. He has also set up waste to energy plants in the UAE and also taken them overseas as part of


Masdar City in the UAE is fed by 10 MW of solar panels on ground and 1 MW from roof tops of the houses

Masdar, which is one of the largest developers of renewable energy with front line technologies in the world. Deploying wind energy in island countries is yet another strategy that takes advantage of winds from seas and oceans.

Masdar City in the UAE is fed by 10 MW of solar panels on ground and 1 MW from roof tops of the houses. Certainly, as compared to today’s large solar power plants in India and China these capacities are relatively small, however it is worth recalling that Sultan Al Jaber had initiated the Masdar project in 2008, much before the waves of large solar plants started striking the shores of sunny countries.

A multi-talented personality Al Jabar had started his career as process engineer. Now, as the CEO of an oil company and Minister of Industry and advanced technology, Sultan Al Jaber has become icon of the young generation, mainly because of his initiatives in renewable energy, innovation and digital technologies.

He was invited by UN Secretary General on the panel for High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. He has been UAE’s climate envoy in earlier COPs. No other President of any COPs in the past has such hands-on experience and grounding credentials.  To top it all he is now leading the project of Green Hydrogen through partnership with multi-nationals.

He has been awarded Champion of the Earth award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Prime Minister Modi conferred on him lifetime achievement award for his contributions to energy security, building bridges to emerging Asian economies and for reshaping traditional energy business models.

Al Jaber has unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world, as UAE’s Zayed family has done so far through the establishment of awards on sustainability and environmental protection, how a large oil producing country can use its fortune for the betterment of the mankind.

World has now another opportunity to get to know yet one more Alfred Nobel. We should let Al Jaber not just preside over COP 28 but, but allow him to develop yet another out-of-box strategy to rescue the world from climate disaster. He can use his money-making oil machine to establish another fund from profits of oil business to shame the developed countries who have not yet delivered on their promises of climate finances to developing countries. He can go beyond Alfred Nobel’s legacy to use the oil-fortune to become CEO of the world-wide venture that supports renewables and hydrogen energy.

As the old Indian adage goes, the best way to remove the thorn stuck in the body is to use another thorn. The climate thorn stuck in planet’s body can be removed by deploying yet another thorn, a strategy that Al Jaber seems to be trying to perfect.

By Rajendra Shende is a former Director UNEP,Founder Director Green TERRE Foundation,coordinating lead author,IPCC that won Nobel peace prize ,IIT Alumnus



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *