COP28: United Arab Emirates’ Oil Production Expansion Raises Concerns Over Climate Goals

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the host country for COP28 climate talks, has revealed plans to significantly increase its oil production in the coming years. According to experts, the UAE’s state oil firm Adnoc may drill 42% more oil by 2030, positioning it as the second-largest oil producer between 2023 and 2050, only after Saudi Arabia. This revelation has raised concerns among climate activists and experts who stress the need to reduce oil and gas production to combat climate change.

The increase in oil drilling by the UAE contradicts the goals of the COP28 climate talks, which primarily focus on phasing out fossil fuels, including oil and gas. Sultan al-Jaber, the president of COP28 and the chief executive of Adnoc, is now facing scrutiny for the country’s expansion plans, which experts argue are not aligned with the effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The data provided by Rystad Energy, a trusted source of oil market intelligence, suggests that Adnoc’s production capacity will experience a steep rise in the next decade. Current projections indicate that the UAE’s oil output may surpass 1.5 billion barrels by 2030, with continuous growth expected throughout the 2030s. However, production is anticipated to decline in the 2040s, and by 2050, Adnoc is estimated to produce close to 850 million barrels annually.

Climate experts warn that Adnoc’s projected growth in oil production undermines efforts to limit global warming. The increase in emissions resulting from this expansion could exceed 14 billion tonnes of CO2, accounting for more than 6% of the Earth’s carbon budget to maintain temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, emphasizes that Adnoc’s expansion plans are incompatible with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Adnoc argues that the analysis fails to distinguish between production capacity and actual production. While the company aims to increase its production capacity by 7% in the next four years, it asserts that this does not reflect its share of production. Adnoc also highlights its commitment to reducing carbon intensity by 25% by 2030 and investing in decarbonization initiatives and renewable energy sources.

Despite Adnoc’s claims, campaigners from Global Witness emphasize that the analysis focused on actual production rather than capacity. They argue that Adnoc’s plans to produce more oil than most oil operators contradicts the scientific consensus and the objectives of COP28. Green political leaders further underline that pursuing new oil drilling opportunities goes against the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.

The revelation of the UAE’s expansion plans raises concerns about the country’s commitment to combating climate change as the host of COP28. Many unknown factors can influence future oil production and demand, but it is crucial for the UAE, represented by Sultan al-Jaber, to take action and revise Adnoc’s future plans to align them with the global climate goals. Failure to do so risks undermining both the credibility of the COP presidency and the success of COP28 itself.