'Absolute scandal': UAE state oil firm able to read COP28 climate summit emails, Guardian investigation reveals

'Absolute scandal': UAE state oil firm able to read COP28 climate summit emails, Guardian investigation reveals
3 min read
07 June, 2023
The presidency of the controversial UAE-based COP28 climate summit have been sharing emails with the UAE's state run oil firm in a direct conflict of interest.
UAE oil boss Sultan Al Jaber's presidency of COP28 was already fraught with tension [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates’ state oil company has been able to read emails received and sent from the COP28 climate summit office and was consulted on how to respond to the media, The Guardian has reported.

The UAE, which will host the summit in November, controversially appointed Sultan Al Jaber as president of COP28. He is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

COP28 is supposed to keep its email system separate from ADNOC, due to the conflict of interests a climate summit that calls for the eventual end of fossil fuels may have with the world’s eight largest oil company.

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However, the office shared email servers with ADNOC, according to expert technical analysis commissioned by Guardian.

Al Jaber’s dual role had in itself attracted widespread criticism and condemnation.

French MEP Manon Aubrey, who co-led a recent letter from 133 US and European lawmakers calling for Al Jaber’s resignation called it a “scandal”. 

He further likened Al Jaber’s simultaneous roles as CEO of ADNOC and president of COP28 to “having a tobacco multinational overseeing the internal work of the World Health Organization.”

The revelation about email sharing is likely to lend more weight to the arguments of critics of the COP28 summit, who say that it is completely compromised by its relationship with Al Jaber.

Though COP28 denies that it shares emails with ADNOC, red flags were raised when the Guardian emailed them about another story and the reply contained the text “ADNOC classification: internal”.

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After enquiring about this, the Guardian was told that it had merely sought advice from ADNOC.

However, the experts brought in by the newspaper revealed that ADNOC servers were involved in both the sending and receiving of emails.

“The [COP28] server handed everything off to the oil company’s server to send the email out … the oil company was able to look at all of the email which they were sending out”, said traceability expert Dr Richard Clayton of the University of Cambridge to the Guardian.

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The MEP Bas Eickhout, the vice-chair of the EU parliament’s environment committee, said the Guardian’s findings were “explosive”.

“The [UAE presidency of COP28] is a merger of the economic interests of a fossil country with a fundamental transition agenda that should be away from this fossil industry – that will not go well, and [these revelations] already show that it’s not going well”, he told the Guardian.

There are now calls not just for Al Jaber’s resignation, but for UN climate agencies to take closer control of the summit.

After becoming aware of the Guardian’s inquiries, the COP28 office switched to a different server on Monday.