Oil Barons Run the Show

COP28 started on December 1. That’s this year’s big international climate conference, the 28th in the series since 1995. Its president is Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber of the host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He happens to be the head of ADNOC, UAE’s state-owned oil company, as well as of a state-owned renewable energy company.

Having an oil executive head the climate talks was a controversial choice—but isn’t it just dropping the pretence? Fossil fuel companies, agribusiness, chemical, and plastic companies, and other capitalists and capitalist organisations tied into the most climate-destructive activities—like producing and burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and intensive industrial farming—have always been lobbying these climate conferences, mostly behind the scenes, and have always had sway with the national governments that are the decision-makers at these events.

COP means conference of the parties, and the parties are the governments that ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty. Decisions are made by consensus, giving veto power to the major producers and users of coal, oil, and natural gas, like the U.S., China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That is why fossil fuels were never even mentioned in the texts adopted by these conferences until 2021, and even then it was weasel-worded in the Glasgow Climate Pact from COP26 as calling for “accelerating efforts toward the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

“[W]hat was missing from the Glasgow pact, the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, and in fact everything from the UN climate process was a complete, rapid elimination of fossil fuel production and use, and the global construction of the infrastructure and other conditions needed to make that feasible without turning numerous countries into sacrifice zones”.

So really what is new about admitting openly that the oil companies (private and state-owned) run the show? Why should one be surprised to learn that internal communications of the organisers of the climate conference were shared with ADNOC? How else was ADNOC supposed to make all the important decisions? It’s no accident that UAE would use the climate meetings before and during the conference to make business deals for their oil company?

The reality is that the fossil fuel companies, and the capitalists who run them and benefit from them, and the governments and politicians that kowtow to them, are the enemy of humanity here. They are the ones who pushed the denial of climate change, who pushed delay after delay in combating it or even recognising it as a crisis, and who are even now obstructing action. With every passing year of minimal action, the built-in inertia toward catastrophe grows, and the magnitude of efforts required to turn around the situation grows. The suffering caused now and in the future by the climate crisis grows, and the sacrifices needed (which are, however, distorted and exaggerated by Big Oil and its ideologues) also grow.

There are two worlds of rulers and ruled in every country, and these forces are part of the class war against most people. The whole idea of “working with” these “experts” is essentially waving a flag of surrender. The fact is that, despite the heating and destruction that is baked in from emissions already made, it is still not too late to make a huge difference, to pull away from total catastrophe.

Fossil fuel companies are the enemy of humanity. What is needed is to defeat them, not to beg them to do the right thing but to remove their power.

 (Contributed by Franklin Dmitryev, originally published at .)


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Vol 56, No. 25, Dec 17 - 23, 2023