COP25: Over 40 Gulf State Delegates Are Current or Former Employees of Fossil Fuel Companies

COP25: Over 40 Gulf State Delegates Are Current or Former Employees of Fossil Fuel Companies
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Gulf states have sent at least 42 current or former employees of the fossil fuel industry to the UN climate summit in Madrid as part of their official delegations, DeSmog analysis shows.

More than half of the delegation from Kuwait and almost a third of Saudi Arabia’s representatives attending the Madrid meeting, known as COP25, are associated with the oil and gas industry. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar collectively sent at least 16 delegates associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Many of these affiliations were not declared on the official preliminary delegate list, provided by the UN.


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Leaders have been meeting in Madrid over the past two weeks to work out the next steps in the international process to tackle climate change. During that time, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco was floated on its stock exchange, raising about $2 trillion in share capital.

Saudi Arabia was also accused by Green MEP Bas Eikhout of failing to uphold the “environmental integrity” of the Paris Agreement at the meeting. He said Saudi Arabia’s delegation, along with those of Brazil and Australia, were lobbying to weaken rules around carbon trading — a key point of conflict in the Madrid taks. 

At last year’s meeting in Poland, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait teamed up with Russia and the US to prevent the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark 1.5C report from being officially welcomed at the proceedings.

Ayman Shasly, senior negotiator for Saudi Arabia and a former employee at Aramco, defended the country’s decision not to “welcome” the findings of a key UN climate report in an interview with Carbon Brief last year. He said doing so would have given “legitimacy” to the report which, in his opinion, still had “gaps”.

Fossil fuel delegates

Kuwait sent the highest number of delegates with fossil fuel ties, with 15 of its 29-person team currently working for subsidiaries of Kuwait’s national oil company, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Nine of Saudi Arabia’s delegation are employees of Aramco, including the country’s Chief Negotiator, Khalid Abuleif, who is the Coordinator of Policy and CDM for the oil giant’s carbon management program.


Read all of DeSmog’s COP25 coverage


While a large proportion of the delegation work at the Saudi Ministry of Energy, five work at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, a government scientific research agency that has strong historic links to Aramco. The state oil company says it collaborates with the agency “in the pursuit of high impact research and technology initiatives of strategic importance to our business”.

Two of the UAE’s COP delegates are closely tied with the Emirates National Oil Company and Dragon Oil, which it acquired in 2015. Ahmad Buti Al Muhairbi, Secretary General of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, is a director at both companies, while Saeed Mohammed Ahmed Al Tayer, CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, is Vice Chairman.

Bahrain’s delegation includes Shaikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Alkhalifa, Minister of Oil and Gas as well as Chairman of Tatweer Petroleum, and Hussain Jaffar Makki, Board Director of BANAGAS. And Oman’s Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, Mohammed Salim Altob, spent 18 years working for Petroleum Development Oman, an oil company.

All the delegations have been contacted for comment on this story.

Image: Planet Labs/Wikimedia Commons CC BYSA 4.0

COP25: Over 40 Gulf State Delegates Are Current or Former Employees of Fossil Fuel Companies
Rich Collett-White is Deputy Editor of DeSmog. He joined the organisation in December 2018 as a UK researcher and reporter, having previously worked in communications for the climate charity Operation Noah.

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