Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, secured the COP28 presidency despite questions over his green credentials.

by Ben Stockton and Amy Westervelt, The Intercept

John Kerry looked on from the front row as Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates took to the stage in Abu Dhabi in January. Next to Kerry on the plush white chairs reserved for VIPs were senior figures from the Emirati, British, and U.S. governments. It was Al Jaber’s first public appearance since being appointed president of this year’s Conference of the Parties, COP28, the United Nations annual climate summit.

Al Jaber wore a sage green kandura, round glasses, and a white headdress. He spoke slowly and deliberately, laying out his vision for COP28, which will be held in the UAE in December. But his assured manner belied the barrage of criticism he was facing in the press.

Sultan Al Jaber speaks at a podium

Al Jaber is not just this year’s COP president. He also heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, known as Adnoc. It is the first time any CEO, let alone one from the fossil fuel industry, has been COP president. The announcement was met with fury from climate activists. Kerry, meanwhile, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, appeared nonplussed.

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