Hundreds of climate and environmental groups from around the world released a letter Thursday that decried the nomination of an oil executive to oversee the United Nations climate negotiations at COP28 this year.

Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates, host of the U.N. climate talks this year, named Sultan al-Jaber to the presidency of the conference Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. The company he runs as chief executive, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., produces 4 million barrels of crude oil per day and hopes to expand to 5 million daily by the end of the decade.

Revenues generated from the sale of that oil are critical to economic health of the UAE, which is among the world’s top 10 oil producers. And the burning of that oil creates carbon dioxide emissions while the climate crisis is worsening.

Activists said the selection of al-Jaber “threatens the legitimacy and efficacy” of the conference. “There is no honor in appointing a fossil fuel executive who profits immensely off of fueling the climate crisis to oversee the global response to climate change,” read the letter to U.N. officials.

The letter goes on to say the nomination of an oil executive to oversee the climate talks exemplifies the influence that fossil fuel companies have over international climate policy.

Some of the world’s largest environmental and climate action groups, such as, Friends of the Earth International and Greenpeace, signed the letter, along with five of the nine coalitions of non-governmental organizations that represent different sectors of the global population at the climate talks.

The groups said leadership of the climate talks must be free of fossil fuel influence. In addition, they demanded that fossil fuel companies be excluded from sponsorships, partnerships and rulemaking processes at the conference and that it needs to focus on those most affected by climate change in the negotiations and solutions.

Before the letter, several others had weighed in on the nomination of al-Jaber. John Kerry, the United States’ climate envoy, backed the nomination in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. Former U.S. vice president and climate leader Al Gore criticized the selection of al-Jaber during the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month.

Activists with the youth climate action group Fridays for Future also voiced their unhappiness with the move while in Davos.


Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.