The oil baron running the climate talks — and the US envoy who’s had his back

The oil baron running the climate talks — and the US envoy who’s had his back

The Biden administration’s public embrace of the United Arab Emirates oil chief running the global climate talks brings political risks. Can it yield a deal to slash fossil fuel pollution?

Climate activists and progressive lawmakers unleashed their scorn when the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful oil companies got the job of helming this year’s global climate summit.

“Do you take us for fools?” former U.S. Vice President Al Gore asked. “Completely ridiculous,” Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said. Hundreds of green groups and 130 lawmakers in the EU and U.S. joined in.

But United Arab Emirates oil chief Sultan al-Jaber has a defender in his corner at the summit known as COP28, which debuts Thursday in Dubai: John Kerry, whose two and a half years as President Joe Biden’s climate envoy have included an aggressive courtship of al-Jaber as a partner in the fight against greenhouse gas pollution.

That partnership will be put to the test this week, as an expected 70,000 people from nearly 200 nations meet amid war, inflation woes and a global energy boom in a Persian Gulf city built by the UAE’s oil wealth. So will a central tenet of Kerry’s climate diplomacy — the notion that the countries, companies and executives who have profited the most from greenhouse gas pollution, those with the power to steer energy markets and the money to kickstart multibillion-dollar disaster funds, should play an essential role in solving the problem.

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