Greta Thunberg on Abu Dhabi’s oil chief leading COP28 climate summit: ‘Completely ridiculous’

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking on the main stage in George Square as part of the Fridays for Future Scotland march during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Picture date: Friday November 5, 2021.

Jane Barlow | PA Images | Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday became the latest vocal critic of the United Arab Emirates’ decision to name the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) as president of this year’s COP28 climate summit.

Asked her view on the appointment during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, she said, “Lobbyists have been influencing these conferences since forever, and this just puts a very clear face to it… it’s completely ridiculous.”

The presidency has sparked a torrent of criticism from climate activists and civil society organizations since its mid-January announcement. The UAE, one of the world’s top oil producers, will host the U.N.-led climate summit from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023.

Adnoc chief executive Sultan al-Jaber has spoken about the need for climate action, saying during a Jan. 14 conference that the UAE has “a clear sense of responsibility and a great sense of urgency” in that direction.

“We don’t need to wait for the global stocktake to know what it will say. We are way off track,” he said at the time. “The world is playing catch-up when it comes to the key Paris goal of holding global temperatures down to 1.5 degrees. And the hard reality is that, in order to achieve this goal, global emissions must fall 43% by 2030.”

Many critics are calling on the oil chief to step down from Adnoc leadership, saying it represents a clear conflict of interest with his COP28 position.

A spokesperson for COP28 told CNBC that al-Jaber “is an energy expert and founder of one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies, a senior business leader, government minister and climate diplomat with more than 20 years of experience of taking climate action” and that “he is uniquely qualified to deliver a successful COP28.”

The spokesperson added that the Adnoc CEO “is determined to make COP28 a COP for all. And to make truly transformational progress it is critical that all stakeholders are at the table.”

Environmental activists like Thunberg don’t seem to be convinced. Earlier during the Davos panel on Thursday, she said it was an “absurd” situation that the world appears to be listening to Davos delegates rather than to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that fossil fuel emissions must halve within the next decade, if global warming is to be contained to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to the panel, roughly 90% of global CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels and the heavy industry.

In October, a research team led by Oregon State University reported that several of the planet’s vital signs have reached “code red” and that “humanity is unequivocally facing a climate emergency.” Their report found that, in 2022, carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere reached a level that has not been seen in millions of years.

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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