Oil firm run by Sultan Al Jaber sought $100 billion of fossil fuel deals whilst he led climate negotiations

5th June 2024, London – A new investigation from Global Witness published today reveals how the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) used its CEO’s Presidency of COP28 to pursue oil and gas deals.

ADNOC sought close to $100 billion worth of oil, gas and petrochemical deals as its CEO, Sultan Al Jaber, chaired the climate talks - a five-fold increase on the previous year. The revelations appear to blow a hole in Al Jaber’s denials that the firm used the climate talks to further its business interests, after briefing documents, which instructed ADNOC to discuss fossil fuel deals with states at COP28, were leaked.

As the Bonn intersessional session kicks off, the midway point to COP29 where the UAE will hand over the COP Presidency to Azerbaijan, the analysis reveals details of the 20 major international fossil fuel deals ADNOC pursued in 2023. Those deals were negotiated with entities domiciled in or owned by Azerbaijan, the COP30 host Brazil, and recent COP hosts Egypt and the UK.

The potential $100 billion value of these 20 deals is five times greater than the value of deals it pursued the previous year and 40 per cent higher than that of the previous four years combined, showing a huge spike in business activity in the year UAE hosted COP.

Patrick Galey, Senior Investigator at Global Witness, said:

“There was widespread shock when the UAE, a petrostate, was handed the reins of the world’s most important climate talks. But even then, it was hard to imagine just how brazen they would turn out to be by pursuing activities that actually subverted the purpose of COP. Having placed a fossil fuel CEO at the helm, the UAE knew exactly what it was doing and was not let down – COP28 seems to have been moulded towards the benefit of its state oil company.”

“Make no mistake, COP28 was hijacked by the interests of the fossil fuel industry, who weren’t content simply to block or stall genuine climate policy but used the opportunity to pursue more climate-wrecking oil and gas deals. As depressing as it is dystopian, climate talks must never be allowed to create more climate chaos.”

“More worryingly still, COP28 seems to have provided other petrostates with a sinister playbook to copy and paste from. As the UAE passes the baton onto Azerbaijan, we are now looking at the possibility of consecutive COPs being hijacked for the interests of big polluters and their profits. All the while, the world hurtles dangerously close to breaching 1.5C degrees, whilst wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events sow untold suffering all over the world.”


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Last month, a group of U.S. lawmakers wrote to the Biden administration arguing that the COP29 UN climate summit in Baku risks being again co-opted by the fossil fuel industry.

Responding to the Global Witness investigation, United States Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon said:

“Time is running out to address climate chaos, and these international climate talks are too important for the United States to stay silent as yet another negotiation is captured by oil and gas companies. That is why I led my colleagues to urge the Biden administration to curb fossil fuel interests at COP29 in Azerbaijan later this year. Communities in my home state of Oregon and across our country are already suffering the consequences of the climate crisis. The world must deliver on its promises to transition away from dangerous fossil fuels and toward a global clean energy future.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from Michigan, said:

“Allowing fossil fuel executives to launder their climate destruction through the world’s most important climate change conference makes a mockery of the very serious global efforts to radically limit emissions and transition to clean, renewable energy. This new report is a disturbing warning about the potential for further fossil fuel corruption at COP29, which incredibly will also be hosted by another fossil fuel executive. I will continue urging the U.S. and UNFCCC to adopt new policies to prevent these absurd conflicts of interest that frustrate the international community’s work to address the urgent threats of climate change.”

Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat from Texas, said:

“Global Witness has documented how COP is being co-opted by fossil fuel interests. With the overheating of our planet already causing accelerating death and destruction, I'm urging adoption of strong conflict of interest rules to prevent special interests from controlling the agenda. This report reaffirms the global urgency to save lives by rejecting fossilized thinking and transitioning to clean energy”. 

Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat from California said:

“The annual COP is meant to be the venue for holding governments for saving the planet from climate catastrophe.  It is an absolute scandal that the UNFCCC has two years running put an oil & gas executive in charge of this event—thus putting foxes in charge of the henhouse. The UNFCCC needs to immediately remove Mukhtar Babayev from any leadership role at COP29.”

Among the findings from Global Witness is new evidence that COP29 host Azerbaijan appears to be seeking to emulate ADNOC’s approach to climate negotiations, having announced plans to privatise parts of the state-run oil and gas firm SOCAR in the weeks before the Baku summit, which will take place in November.

This cooperation builds on ADNOC’s August 2023 acquisition of a 30 per cent equity stake in Azerbaijan’s Absheron gas field, also in partnership with the French oil giant TotalEnergies. And as COP entered its final week ADNOC announced an agreement with Azerbaijan to explore the production of fossil hydrogen.

ADNOC sought deals with companies owned by or based in at least 12 countries, including 11 of the 16 countries revealed as top targets in a pre-COP leaked briefing document. This includes ADNOC and BP announcing plans for a joint venture to buy a 50% stake in Israel’s NewMed Energy to expand gas development, and two bids for a stake in Braskem, Latin America’s largest producer of petrochemicals, which is part-owned by Brazil’s state-run oil and gas producer Petrobras. It also finalised contracts worth an estimated $17 billion to develop the UAE’s Hail and Ghasha gas field in partnership with Russia’s Lukoil and Germany’s Wintershall Dea.

A previous investigation from the Kick Big Polluters Out Coalition found record numbers of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 (2,456), with 178 of these listed as guests of the UAE. This included 17 senior fossil fuel executives, including the BP CEO Murray Auchincloss.

Patrick Galey said:

“COP28 was a fossil fuel festival and COP29 looks to be going in the same direction. The world simply cannot keep wasting these opportunities to tackle a climate crisis that is already wreaking havoc. Its time big polluters were kicked out of COP for good.”

ADNOC, SOCAR and COP29 were approached by Global Witness for comment in response to this investigation. ADNOC described the findings as “misleading and inaccurate” and said they are working to ensure a “secure, reliable, and responsible supply of energy to support a just, orderly and equitable global energy transition.” They repeated their assertion that claims Al Jaber used his Presidency to make oil and gas deals are “false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate.” A COP28 spokesperson said: “Made up allegations about conversations that never took place and attempt to discredit the hard work and tremendous accomplishments of the Presidency do not merit consideration.” A spokesperson for COP29 said Azerbaijan is “100% committed to bringing countries together with the ambition of keeping the 1.5-degree target within reach” and said the country has no hidden agenda in hosting COP. Full responses from the companies are available in the full report of this investigation, available here.


  • Global Witness analysed the deals ADNOC Group, including all ADNOC subsidiaries, either pursued or confirmed with international entities during 2023, from a variety of datasets, including Rystad Energy’s M+A Analysis Dashboard and Eikon Refinitiv’s Deal Tracker service. It also included deals listed in official company and media reports
  • We searched M+A and equity deal databases since January 1 2019 for all ADNOC’s major subsidiaries, excluding purely domestic contracts (i.e. if ADNOC Onshore gave ADNOC Drilling a licence). We then cross referenced the number of deals, type, and – where publicly available – dollar value of the deals against the list of countries featured in the COP28 country briefing documents leaked to the Centre for Climate Reporting and the BBC
  • While Global Witness did its utmost to identify all deals sought by ADNOC over the last five years, it cannot exclude the possibility that some were missed. There were likely deals that were negotiated but never made public, meaning deal frequency and values for each year are likely to be underestimated
  • Not all deals pursued by ADNOC in 2023 were finalised; for several, negotiations are ongoing; others such as ADNOC’s joint bid for concessions in Israel gas operations, are on hold due to geopolitical tensions. Some bids ADNOC made for takeovers or equity stakes in 2023 did not end up materialising. Global Witness has included these deals because it believes there is credible evidence to suggest that ADNOC was involved in active negotiations throughout the year that the UAE was COP28 host
  • We used data sourced from Rystad’s Asset Report Sheet and UCube service to calculate the projected oil and gas production, investment and income generated from a number of oil and gas assets, including Leviathan, Absheron, and Hail and Ghasha gas fields
  • Potential dollar values for transactions, contracts, takeovers and mergers were taken from either company statements or media reporting. Where possible, Global Witness has done its best to calculate the likely value of a deal ADNOC completed but for which financial details were not disclosed. For acquisitions, we used company financial reports’ values of total equity and/or total balance sheet to calculate a value range of a given transaction. Where a dollar value for a transaction was neither disclosed by one or both companies, reported by media, or for which Global Witness was not able to reach a confident estimated figure, values have been left blank. This means the annual dollar figures for all years studied in this investigation are likely to be underestimates
  • All deals were assigned the year in which they were first reported. So if ADNOC entered into a potential merger, such as that it is currently negotiating with OMV, in 2023, the potential dollar value – since it is known – is included in 2023’s tally even though the deal has yet to be finalised. Similarly, deals pursued by ADNOC prior to 2023 but finalised in that year were included in the year they were initiated, and not 2023
  • Sultan Al-Jaber was provisionally nominated as COP28 president on January 12, 2023, and was officially appointed at the start of the summit in an official handover ceremony on November 30, 2023. As such, Global Witness has focused on seeking to identify and, where possible, value deals pursued by ADNOC in 2023, then compare that amount and value involved with each of the four previous years. Al-Jaber will technically remain COP president until the beginning of COP29 on November 11, 2024.

Our full methodology is available in the investigation