Backroom fossil fuel deals have cast a pall on the COP28 climate talks.  

Leaked documents allegedly reveal the UAE's COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, intended to exploit his position to push oil and gas trade deals with foreign nations. 

The documents, obtained through a joint investigation by the BBC and the Centre for Climate Reporting, expose plans for pre-summit diplomatic meetings with Germany, the US, China, and Italy to discuss fossil fuel trade.

Climate diplomacy experts have condemned Al Jaber's actions, citing a clear breach of conduct standards expected from a COP president. 

The revelation has sparked concerns about the potential undermining of the climate talks. 

Al Jaber, also the CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), has faced criticism from the start due to the dual role, described as a “breathtaking conflict of interest”.

The leaked documents, consisting of over 150 pages, detail briefings for meetings prepared by the COP28 team, indicating a shift from expectations of promoting agreements to phase out fossil fuels to clandestine plans to boost ADNOC's trade during pre-COP sessions. 

The UAE's response has been to dismiss the documents as inaccurate, saying that they are not being used in COP28 meetings.
A COP28 spokesperson has told Reuters; “The documents referred to in the BBC article are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings”, adding that “it is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting”.

Richie Merzian, International Director at the Smart Energy Council, says Al Jaber's actions have eroded any goodwill towards the controversial appointment. 

Merzian, a former Australian government representative at UN climate conferences, deemed the situation unprecedented in his experience.

Polly Hemming, Director of Climate and Energy at the Australia Institute, has labelled Al Jaber's dual role as a “raging conflict of interest” and criticised the UAE's attempt to obstruct climate action while hosting a climate conference. 

Hemming highlighted the ambiguous language around renewable energy initiatives, calling for increased transparency.

The leaked documents also reveal plans to discuss commercial opportunities for the state renewable energy company, Masdar, with 20 countries. 

Critics argue that attempting business deals during the COP process violates the standards of conduct for a COP president, potentially jeopardising the summit's success. 

The COP28 summit starts this week and is scheduled to conclude on December 12, with the global community closely watching the unfolding controversy.