Activists’ concerns on COP28 chairperson are valid, says Galway County Councillor
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber has been officially confirmed as the chairperson of the next UN Conference of Parties on climate change, starting in November 2023 in the United Arab Emirates.
Since his initial appointed, environment activists around the world have been criticising the conflict of interest as Sultan Al-Jaber is the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
Sultan Al-Jaber responded by saying that events like the COP are supposed to “fight climate change, not each other” and he reiterated his willingness to engage in the summit through a solution-oriented attitude with policies that are both “pro-growth and pro-climate.”
A Galway point of view
Councillor Alastair McKinstry, the Green Party representative for Connemara on the Galway County Council, said although he wasn’t particularly surprised by the COP28 taking place in the UAE, he was disappointed by an oil company chief being appointed as the president.
Cllr McKinstry said that “it makes it very hard to have confidence that they will be working as hard as they need to when they have a vested interest in delaying the exit from an oil and gas centred system as long as possible.”
COP27, which was hosted by Egypt, already received notable backlash from climate activists and experts. Countries weren’t able to agree on phasing out all fossil fuels as the major oil-producing nations would block other nations’ push.
Cllr McKinstry, who is also a climate and environment researcher at the University of Galway, said that the COPs seem to be less and less effective each year.
“It was already difficult when more cooperative and enthusiastic chairpersons were appointed in the previous COPs,” he said.
Cllr McKinstry told The Galway Pulse that although all the countries need to equally engage in the “loss and damage mechanisms,” that set goals, such as limiting the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees, there is inequality in how Western and developing countries can and want to deal with the climate crisis.
“Developing countries hosting the COP won’t allow any objections and demonstrations against their work. But at the same time, they are asked to commit economical suicide for the benefit of the rest of the world.”
Alternatives to the COP
However, the UN-led COPs will remain the most important global summit on the climate crisis, and it’s unlikely that they would be replaced by something different.
According to Cllr McKinstry, they will also always be political rather than science centred. “Policymakers always consult science representatives when forwarding their proposals,” he said. “But the latter can only remain at the fringes of the conference. It will always be on politicians to take decisions.”
“I think it should be as science-led as possible, and maybe the way chairs are nominated should be reviewed,” he added.