UAE to Host Largest Annual Climate Summit and Plans Major Fossil Fuel Expansion

In late September, the Minister of Environment for Zimbabwe ceded control over a massive amount of land, almost 20% of the country’s territory, to an obscure foreign company. This company, Blue Carbon, was founded by an Emirati royal, a member of Dubai’s ruling family, who aimed to conserve forests across five African nations to prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere. Blue Carbon will then sell carbon credits to offset CO2 emissions from companies and governments that burn fossil fuels.

These conservation deals were announced in the months leading up to the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit, hosted by the United Arab Emirates. Analysts and climate advocates believe that this represents a green initiative by the UAE to mask intentions to continue fossil fuel extraction. Despite the UAE’s pledge to extract its last barrel of oil in 50 years, the assumption is that Blue Carbon will sell these credits to offset the UAE’s carbon footprint.

The area size of the conservation projects, the financing provided or projected carbon credits were not disclosed. However, Blue Carbon aims to present these deals at COP28 as a blueprint for global carbon trading. While the UAE expects to utilize its COP28 presidency to emphasize carbon removal as a central solution to the climate crisis, advocates remain skeptical of its efficacy as a “greenwashing” tactic.

The UAE has a lot to lose if fossil fuels are phased out, as oil and gas account for a significant portion of its GDP and exports. The appointment of a representative from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) as leader of the negotiations has drawn criticism, with many calling for his replacement.

The UAE’s role and business interests in carbon offset initiatives and fossil fuel production have led to concerns about conflicts of interest in negotiations. The UAE’s position as a significant carbon polluter despite a small population and its sizable oil production have drawn much scrutiny from climate activists, viewing it as a conflict of interest during international climate talks.

Nonetheless, Blue Carbon’s plans for carbon offset deals in Africa and the allocation of revenue to forest-rich countries aim to present a new channel of revenue for developing countries. The idea of creating carbon credits in exchange for preserving forests has faced criticism for possible exaggerations in their true role in mitigating climate change. Despite the UAE’s emphasis on the importance of its fossil fuel industry in climate negotiations, global leaders and advocates remain wary of such initiatives.


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