Exclusive: State oil company accused of ‘incoherent’ reduction objectives, whose chief will preside over Cop28.
According to the Guardian, the United Arab Emirates has been delaying reporting its emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to the UN for almost ten years. The UAE will host the key Cop28 UN climate summit in December.
Adnoc, the nation’s state-owned oil corporation, has set itself a methane leak target that is significantly higher than the amount it claims it has already attained. Sultan Al Jaber, Adnoc’s chief executive, will controversially preside over the climate summit. Al Jaber recently urged nations and businesses to be “brutally honest” about how inadequate current global efforts to combat the climate catastrophe are.
Al Jaber is tasked with motivating nations at Cop28 to take urgently required climate action, as extreme weather claims lives all around the world. Although the US and EU previously supported him, he has also been under pressure to resign.
The disclosures, in addition to the UAE’s massive planned increase in oil and gas output against expert advise, according to critics, demonstrate the “opposite of leadership” and damage Al Jaber’s credibility.
About 25% of global warming is caused by methane, and the use of fossil fuels is a major source of methane leaks. A quick and inexpensive strategy to reduce these emissions is to lower the rate of global warming.
Since 2014, the UN’s climate agency has mandated that nations report their methane emissions every two years. In contrast to other Middle Eastern oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman, the UAE has not submitted any reports.
Al Jaber urged nations to update nationally determined contributions, or climate action plans, for submission to the UN in July.
Adnoc stated in October 2022 that it would strive to restrict leaks to less than 0.15% of the gas generated by 2025 as part of its commitment to reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production.
However, following a meeting of the Adnoc board presided over by UAE crown prince Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, the business estimated its level of emissions for 2022 to be 0.07%.
According to a recently released satellite analysis by researchers at Harvard University in the US, the 0.15% methane objective is also greater than the levels attained in 2019 by Qatar (0.06%) and Saudi Arabia (0.14%).
According to the report, methane leaks in the UAE were predicted to be 3.3% in 2019 and that “these high values [in the UAE and other countries] reflect leaky infrastructure combined with deliberate venting or incomplete flaring of gas.”
Adnoc estimated that in 2021, its upstream oil and gas operations produced 38,000 tonnes of methane overall.
According to information from the International Energy Agency, this accounts for 3% of all methane emissions from similar operations in the UAE. This appears to be in contrast to statistics that indicates Adnoc is in charge of 62% of all upstream oil and gas in the United Arab Emirates.
Adnoc revised its long-term “net zero” emissions target from 2050 to 2045 in July. However, this only counts the scope 1 and scope 2 emissions that come from running its exploration and production facilities, not the far larger scope 3 emissions that come from burning the oil and gas it sells.
Adnoc’s operational emissions made up only 7% of the total, according to a recent assessment.
According to the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, ten additional oil firms have set net zero commitments that cover all emissions. “We need to attack all emissions, everywhere,” Al Jaber stated in July. 1, 2, and 3 ([Scope]).
The UAE wants to lead the world in addressing climate change this year, and methane is a litmus test, according to Kjell Kühne, a researcher with the Leave it in the Ground Initiative. Abu Dhabi is demonstrating the opposite of leadership in three ways: by constructing new fossil gas plants, establishing illogical targets, and neglecting to properly record methane emissions.
“On scope 3 emissions, the largest leadership blunder has occurred. The fact that we cannot save the climate by burning more fossil fuels cannot be concealed, not even by the best PR in the world. At this juncture, an aspirant leader must show their leadership via deeds, not words.
Leadership is essential to the challenging and time-consuming task of the Cop presidency, according to Gareth Redmond-King of the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. Nobody anticipates that to imply that the host nation is faultless, but effective leadership calls for some credibility in both aim and performance.
Therefore, the UAE’s failure to even submit data on their own methane emissions for nearly ten years does not make Dr. Al Jaber’s leadership job any easier – encouraging others to go farther on their goal and delivery.
The company intends to deliver well below the target of 0.15% by 2025, he said. “A world-leading methane intensity target should not be confused with the actual (lower) intensity that we aim to deliver, as we are committed to reducing [it] to the lowest possible level.”
We are dedicated to reducing [it] to the lowest level achievable, therefore our world-leading methane intensity target should not be mistaken with the actual (lower) intensity that we seek to deliver.
A request for comment was not answered by the Cop28 media office. Phase-down of fossil fuels is unavoidable and needed; it will happen, according to Al Jaber, who is also the chair of the UAE renewable energy group Masdar. However, before creating the new energy system, the world cannot be disconnected from the old one. He omitted to give a timeline for the phase-out of fossil fuels.
According to a recent Politico article, Masdar has engaged a new PR firm, which will be tasked with finding “politically influential individuals” to serve as “independent, third-party endorsers and supporters of the UAE, Dr. Al Jaber, and Cop28.”
The UAE just raised the bar on its national climate commitments. UAE’s intentions were evaluated as “insufficient” by the independent Climate Action Tracker consortium since the pledge would still permit an increase in carbon emissions up until 2030.
In June, The Guardian reported that Adnoc had access to emails sent and received by the Cop28 climate summit office.
A vast network of fictitious social media identities that support and defend the UAE’s hosting of Cop28 was also detailed in a story by The Guardian. After members of his team changed Wikipedia pages in May, Al Jaber was charged with trying to “greenwash” his reputation.
“It seems unlikely that an oil executive could convince nations to phase down oil and gas when his own company is busy scaling up oil and gas production,” said David Tong of Oil Change International. The only approach for the UAE to deal with its credibility dilemma is to make sure Cop28 approves a comprehensive energy transition package, which calls for a full, quick, and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels.