Hypocrisy of Western reporting on COP28

COP28 will bring together heads of business and philanthropy, alongside policymakers and other stakeholders, to spur tangible climate action. – AP Photo/Peter Dejong.

RECENT reports by the BBC have suggested that the UAE's 2023 Conference of the Parties (COP28) presidency used climate meetings to promote new fossil fuel expansion.

However, a more nuanced examination reveals potential inconsistencies and points to broader issues of Western hypocrisy in climate discussions.

The BBC's report leans heavily on leaked “briefing documents” from meetings with COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jaber and government ministers regarding UAE companies Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar).

These documents, however, did not result in commercial agreements. In fact, the BBC confirmed that out of two dozen country briefing notes, 12 governments verified that no meetings were held and denied discussions of any commercial nature.

The BBC only confirmed that one nation – which was not identified – followed up on a commercial issue raised in the meetings.

This suggests that the briefing notes were merely background guidance notes to identify common areas of interest, which is a standard approach for diplomatic discussions.

Given that the BBC only found one country that followed up on a commercial discussion, it is clear that such issues were not talked about at COP28 meetings.

As such, the BBC report lacks concrete evidence that the COP28 presidency supported deals involving significant fossil fuel production increases.

For instance, notes on Brazil mention a potential stake purchase in an existing petrochemicals company, which accounts for only a tenth of fossil fuel production. While this may be a new oil and gas “deal”, it does not involve production increases.

Similarly, discussions with Germany revolved around the UAE’s willingness to continue existing LNG supplies rather than increasing them.

Moreover, notes on Saudi Arabia and Venezuela state that the sustainable development of a country’s natural resources does not need to conflict with fighting climate change – with no mention of expanding fossil fuel production.

The only project the BBC could reference, which involves a vast expansion of fossil fuel production, is the UAE’s support for doubling an offshore wind farm in the UK.

In contrast, when compared to the UK government's COP26 presidency, where officials reportedly held dozens of meetings with oil, gas and nuclear energy sector lobbyists, the BBC – a UK-owned company – failed to report this fact about its own government or UK member of parliament Alok Sharma’s alleged conflicts of interests as COP26 host.

This emphasises the double standard in Western reporting on COP28 and serves as a reminder of the need for unbiased reporting across all nations participating in climate discussions.

The UAE’s planned US$150bil expansion in oil and gas capacity pales in comparison to the expansion plans of Western nations.

Since 2015, European banks invested US$1.3tril into fossil fuels. Furthermore, the world’s largest fossil fuel growth plans are led by the US, Canada, Russia, China and Brazil, with most fossil fuel financing coming from banks in the US, Canada and Japan.

This means that there is no reason to doubt COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jaber’s motives to declare the necessity of phasing out fossil fuels.

Many developing countries, such as Chad, support his resistance to endorsing a simplistic phasing out of fossil fuels while committing to the adoption of alternative energy systems.

For advocates in the West pushing for an end to fossil fuels, it’s essential to acknowledge that achieving this goal may seem unattainable to most developing countries without providing the necessary finances, technology, expertise, and legal and regulatory framework, for both transitioning away from fossil fuels and embracing alternative energy systems.

This challenge becomes even more significant for countries like Chad, aiming to break free from poverty, when they are denied the use of their own resources for economic development by historically major emitters in Western countries.

Hence, at COP28, instead of singling out the UAE, there is an opportunity to collectively admit culpability and collaborate on securing a global agreement on addressing the key issues that the COP28 presidency is calling for – to triple renewable energy sources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and secure trillions in climate finance.

Article by Health4Peace founder Nathalie Beasnael

Nathalie Beasnael is a social entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist. She is the founder of the Health4Peace non-profit which provides medical supplies to hospitals in the rural areas of Chad, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria. Nathalie Beasnael is a social entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist. She is the founder of the Health4Peace non-profit which provides medical supplies to hospitals in the rural areas of Chad, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.

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