COP28: The Sultan and climate change

On the way to COP28. For several decades, the United Nations was co-opted by corporations. Their presence in UN institutions undermines spaces and initiatives for the defense of rights and multilateralism, as they only seek to strengthen their interests (their businesses) with public money and international cooperation.

A recent FIAN report[i] points out that a good part of the resources of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) come from private donors”that establish priorities and determine the use of these resources, with strict principles of conditionality”. Among these donors is CropLife International (CLI), “a global trade association whose members are the world’s largest agrochemical, pesticide and seed companies: BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, FMC and Syngenta”, which thus has the means to publicize its pesticides and transgenic seeds.

The World Health Organization, the WHO, has agreements with companies like Bayer, and has served as a platform to strengthen the image of vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer and others, even more so during the pandemic. UNESCO also does not escape this corporatization of the United Nations; It has associations with companies like Google, or media companies like History, criticized for airing documentaries and pseudoscientific research programs, and in its early days it even broadcast numerous documentaries about the figure of Adolf Hitler.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) is known to have investors ranging from transnational conservation corporations such as WWF, Conservation International, IUCN and others. With them there is a long journey of perks for the business sector.

A path of corporatism

Despite this path of corporatization, in the 1970s and 1980s the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, ECOSOC, formed a commission to develop a code of conduct to regulate the activities of transnational companies, a process that was unsuccessful and without the participation of civil society. Likewise, for the Rio 92 Conference, the United Nations instituted the Sustainable Development Commission (CDS), created at the beginning with broad participation from the social sectors, open and democratic, but which was gradually restricted, at the same time that it opened spaces for companies.

In 1999, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, proposed at the Davos Economic Forum to redefine relations between the private sector and the United Nations system, giving rise to the Global Compact, which brings together more than 7,000 companies and entrepreneurs. from at least 140 countries.

At Rio+10, the CDS became a High Level Forum with restricted access and undemocratic decision-making processes. The business sector has acquired more presence, as an “interested party”, and with more capacity to influence than many States or civil society organizations.

A scandalous example occurred in the climate negotiations, which began in 1995 with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Almost from the beginning, governments such as those of the United States or the European Union have been pressing for decisions on climate change not to interfere with their industrial and corporate interests, dependent on fossil energy.

One example is the rapid incorporation of these governments in carbon market negotiations and other false solutions to the climate crisis. Behind this, there has always been the hand of corporations.

COP 27 in Egypt

The Conferences of the Parties (COP) on climate change have been mere business summits and a space for designing international policies that allow oil capitalism to continue in its accumulation spiral, causing ecological and social crises, from which it feeds.

In the 27 COPs held since 1995, large companies appear shamelessly in alliance with UN bodies and governments. This obviously blocks concrete proposals in the face of climate catastrophe and promotes false solutions that exacerbate the problem.

COP27 (Egypt, December 2022) ended with no concrete proposal to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Instead, it deepened the business of carbon offsets (offsets, in English). The more than 630 players in the oil sector have done a good job: fossil fuel extraction can go on.

COP27 took place in an environment of serious threat to fundamental rights. On the one hand, the repressive character of the Egyptian government prevented (something that had not happened before) the People’s Summit and the People’s Climate March. Furthermore, the COP was held in Sharm el-Sheikh, a private resort on the Red Sea with permanent surveillance, full of casinos, resorts and golf courses, installed on the Sinai peninsula, in the ancestral lands of peoples who have been displaced by the army several times.

Greater corporate presence in negotiations

The last summit will also be remembered for being the one with the greatest corporate presence in the negotiations[ii], 25% more than the previous summit in Glasgow. As in other COPs, big companies were “partners” of the Summit: Coca-Cola (you could drink their products for free during the entire meeting), automotive companies, private banks, airlines, mega construction companies, real estate, financial consultants like Bloomberg, digital companies like Google, CISCO, IBM or Microsoft.

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They came at the hand of delegations from various countries, or sponsored exhibitions by various States or UN instances. Let’s see some examples: in the Pavilhão da Água, consulting companies stood out; JPMorgan Chase or Deutsche Bank at the Resilience Pavilion; American conservation corporations such as NRDC, EDF and Bloomberg, at the Climate Justice Pavilion; the Nigeria stand featured the logos of Agip, ExxonMobil, Shell Nigeria, Chevron, Total, Indorama Petrochemicals and Pan Ocean Shipping Company; South Africa mounted its exhibition with the support of Sasol, Escom, AngloAmerican; Ikea, Citi and 3M were highly visible at the main UN stand. And mixed between banks and corporations, transnational conservationists like The Nature Conservancy or WWF whose profit expectations must have been far exceeded.

Presence of oil companies

The fanfare included the participation of the CEO of the oil company BP in the Mauritanian government delegation. Action that was sought to justify with the fact that a contract was signed there for the construction of wind and solar energy projects for the production of hydrogen energy. While this wasn’t the only trade agreement signed here:[iii]

Ursula von der Leyen as a representative of the European Union signed a contract to buy rare minerals from Kazakhstan; others for logging in Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, Uganda and Zambia; one with Egypt for the purchase of hydrogen; another with Namibia for the acquisition of lithium and cobalt. Egypt’s minister of oil and mining resources signed seven memorandums of understanding with Bechtel, Shell, General Electric and other companies, covering issues such as decarbonization technologies or feasibility studies for obtaining ammonia to manufacture fertilizers.

Renewable energy

Proponents of large-scale renewable energy have even organized events on “transitional” deep-sea mineral extraction technologies. Complaint organizations, by contrast, highlighted the devastation[iv] that would be caused by this type of extractivism.

The “renewable energy” companies, interested in implementing projects that occupy large areas, mainly in countries of the South, had a summit in their favor. It is worth mentioning that one of the sponsors of the business roundtables was Neom, a city project in Saudi Arabia, 170 km on the Red Sea, a dream of the Saudi prince, which will only have renewable energy, robots, flying electric cars and an artificial moon adorning the sky .

One of the goals of those who promote “renewable energy” is to reach 60% of global energy capacity by 2030, which would mean tripling the generation capacity with millions of solar panels, wind turbines or biomass or hydrogen projects, which would have disastrous consequences. by territories and nature.

A Sultan for COP28

Following in the wake of the meddling of oil businessmen in climate summits, the next COP28 in the United Arab Emirates will be chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, executive director of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the largest oil companies in the world and one of the 15 companies that emit the most greenhouse gases. The United States, European countries and even the UN Secretary General celebrated this decision. This despite what Antonio Guterres himself said in Davos[v] It’s been less than a month sincebreak addiction to fossil fuels” and complained to the big oil companies they had known for over 50 years[vi] the causes of global warming and did everything to hide it. It was clearly just a speech.

The discredit and illegitimacy of climate summits is overwhelming. By submitting to the interests of big polluters, they contribute to the collapse of the climate instead of fighting it, putting life under extreme threat. The scandal and rejection raised around an oil sultan who bought for himself the presidency of the next summit made it possible to clarify more broadly that the answer lies in resistance to extractive expansion. Oil, gas and coal must remain underground.



[ii] GLOBAL WITNESS. Over 100 more fossil fuel lobbyists than last year, swamping crucial COP climate talks. 10/11/2022.

[iii] LRB. Shortcuts: In Sharm el-Sheikh. Vol. 44. No. 23.


[iv] Introduction to deep sea mining.




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