The fox is in charge of the chook house. Dracula is guarding the blood bank. And the CEO of one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world will preside over the big United Nations climate conference at the end of this year.
Yep. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), reported to be the eleventh biggest oil and gas producer in the world. And he’s been appointed president of the next conference of the parties to the United Nations climate agreements, or COP 28, to be held in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates from 30 November.
So the main international mechanism we’re told will guide us to a safe climate is now in the expert hands of … a CEO who would get a podium finish if trashing the climate were an Olympic sport. In 2021, the International Energy Agency warned that no new oil or gas projects can be approved if the world is to have a chance of reaching the (inadequate) target of “net zero” by 2050. On the enormously long list of companies ignoring this warning, ADNOC’s expansion plans rank as the third-most ambitious, according to a recent Guardian report.
Al Jaber’s defenders point to the $30 billion that ADNOC subsidiaries have invested in renewables since 2006. They’re a little more coy about the $150 billion the company is set to invest in a new oil and gas “megaproject” in Abu Dhabi in just the next five years.
One of the few things as ludicrous as an oil company CEO presiding over the world’s major official climate conference is that this same conference could soon be hosted by Australia, following a push from the Labor government over the past year.
Like the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Australia likes to spruik its green credentials and invest in renewables, while signing off on record-breaking gas projects. Australia still dominates global coal exports and runs neck and neck with Qatar as the world’s biggest gas exporter. With (for instance) 84 percent of the Northern Territory’s land mass under application for gas exploration permits, there will be plenty more to come.
Of course, our oh-so-progressive prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will never be seen fondling lumps of coal in the parliament like former PM Morrison. Instead, the government provides a valuable service to fossil fuel profiteers through expanding production and world-class deceptions that enable continued, and indeed accelerated, climate destruction.
It’s a crowded field, but the winner in this category for June must be Labor’s declaration that the country will soon be open for business as an importer of carbon pollution, part of the dangerous fantasy of “carbon capture and storage”. Never mind that the world’s biggest and most sophisticated CCS scheme, at Chevron’s lucrative Gorgon gas field off the Western Australian coast, is currently emitting four tonnes of gas for every tonne stored. Don’t worry about that minor detail, says Labor, just let the gas companies keep stacking the cash while the planet burns.
All this closely parallels the official position of Abu Dhabi, whose climate change minister recently argued that fossil fuel production could continue and even expand, thanks to the alleged miracles of CCS. The bullshit piles up along with fossil fuel profits, atmospheric CO2 and methane—and the catastrophic consequences.
Perhaps our rulers think we’re stupid. They definitely rely on us being disengaged. But it’s a little difficult to hide forever a worldwide unravelling.
People in North America have never choked on as much smoke, residents of Beijing have never felt so much heat. We’ve never had more CO2 in the atmosphere. We’ve never had such a heat surge in the North Atlantic. We’ve never seen such a jaw-dropping fall in sea ice formation.
So, for anyone who’s looking, the decision of the world’s rulers and their representatives at the COP to choose this very moment to appoint an oil and gas CEO to oversee their annual jamboree of bullshit is clarifying.
We’re at least now free to face our circumstances with sober senses. It’s clear our struggle will have to continue across the increasingly hot, unstable and terrifying world that our rulers—from oil CEOs to smooth-talking UN functionaries to smiling Labor politicians—are intent on imposing on us.
We need many things for that struggle. We need the power of numbers. We need the strength of organised workers. We need righteous rage against a system of worldwide competition and profit that is crashing us through every known limit on global heating. And we need 100 percent clarity that no-one is coming to save us, except ourselves.