US, European lawmakers call for head of UN climate talks to be removed over fossil fuel links

BERLIN (AP) — Scores of members of Congress and the European Parliament called Tuesday for the designated chair of the next United Nations climate summit to be replaced over his ties to the fossil fuel sector and for the industry’s influence at the upcoming talks to be sharply limited.

The United Arab Emirates has been strongly criticized by environmental advocates for nominating Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to preside over the Nov. 30 – Dec. 12 meeting in Dubai known as COP28.

In an open letter, the lawmakers urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.N. climate chief Simon Stiell to “engage in diplomatic efforts to secure the withdrawal of the president-designate of COP28.”

Citing the presence of hundreds of oil and gas industry lobbyists at last year’s climate talks in Egypt, the lawmakers also called on leaders to “take immediate steps to limit the influence of polluting industries, particularly major fossil fuel industry players whose business strategies lie at clear odds with the central goals” of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

About three dozen U.S. senators and House members signed the letter, including both progressive and mainstream Democrats and independents. Veteran U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse helped organize the letter. U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Jeff Merkley were among those joining in.

Signatories from the European Parliament mostly came from members of the Greens, Social Democrats and the Left, but also from independents and one conservative lawmaker.

Al-Jaber’s office responded to the letter by pointing to his experience attending 11 past U.N. climate conferences, his pledge to shift ADNOC’s business away from fossil fuels and his role in founding Masdar, a renewable energy company.

“We believe that Dr. Sultan’s experience as an engineer, working across the energy spectrum, coupled with his experience as a senior global industry leader, are assets that will help drive the UAE’s transformative approach to COP28,” it said.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has in the past described al-Jaber as a “terrific choice” to chair the talks.

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