Amid revelations that the United Arab Emirates has not disclosed its methane emissions data for nearly 10 years leading up to its role as COP 28 host later this year, critics are further alleging that its state-owned oil company, whose CEO Sultan al Jaber will be serving as COP President, has set itself “incoherent” methane targets.
“Dr. Al Jaber’s leadership role—urging others to go further on their ambition and delivery—is not made any easier by the UAE not even having submitted reports on their own methane emissions for nearly a decade,” Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, told The Guardian. “It certainly does nothing to disprove accusations that his role as president of COP 28 is incompatible with his role as CEO of the state oil and gas company.”
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The UN climate secretariat has required countries to submit their methane emissions data every two years since 2014, but the UAE has never done so, the Guardian reports. This revelation, combined with the country’s plans to expand oil and gas production, al Jaber’s role at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC), and the company’s failure on methane reporting, have led to renewed questions about the COP president’s credibility.
Cutting methane emissions is seen as a vital part of climate action, explains the Guardian. In October, 2022, ADNOC adopted a 2025 deadline to limit leaks to less than 0.15% of the methane it produces, but that year the company’s own estimate of its emissions was 0.07%.
That means ADNOC is aiming to “cut” methane intensity to a higher level than what it says it already achieves, and higher than what Qatar and Saudi Arabia reported in 2019. A satellite analysis recently published by scientists at Harvard University placed the UAE’s methane leaks in 2019 closer to 3.3%, reflecting “leaky infrastructure combined with deliberate venting or incomplete flaring of gas.”
ADNOC’s reported methane emissions also add up to a relatively small portion of the UAE’s total from oil and gas operations, raising questions about the company’s accountability, given its significant role in the sector.
Another red flag came up in July, when the company advanced its net-zero emissions target from 2050 to 2045, but only included Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions—not the far greater Scope 3 emissions that come from burning oil and gas when it reaches its end user. Several other oil companies have made pledges that include all emissions, says the Guardian, and al Jaber himself has declared that “we need to attack all emissions, everywhere. Scope 1, 2, and 3.”
Countries and companies must be “brutally honest” about “the gaps that need to be filled, the root causes [of the climate crisis], and how we got to this place here today,” said al Jaber, who also lead’s the UAE’s renewable energy group, Masdar.
“The UAE wishes to lead the world on climate this year, and methane is a litmus test,” said Kjell Kühne, a researcher with the Leave it in the Ground Initiative. “Building new fossil gas projects, setting incoherent targets, and failing to properly report methane emissions are three ways Abu Dhabi is showing the opposite of leadership.”