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UAE rejects claims COP28 boss agreed to step down as ADNOC CEO

The Blue Zone entrance at the Dubai Exhibition Center ahead of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. More than 70,000 politicians, diplomats, campaigners, financiers and business leaders will fly to Dubai to talk about arresting the world’s slide toward environmental catastrophe. Photographer: Annie Sakkab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday hit back at what it described as “fake news” designed to undermine its work as the host of the COP28 climate conference.

Just one day before the United Nations’ biggest and most important annual climate conference gets underway, the UAE said it had become aware of a number of press releases purporting to be issued by COP28 and other entities.

An official-looking letter was widely circulated on social media that suggested COP28 president-designate Sultan Al-Jaber was poised to step down from his position as chief executive of state oil giant ADNOC (the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.).

The letter claimed the change in ADNOC’s leadership would take place “with immediate effect” from Thursday, with further details to be provided in a virtual news conference.

“This press release was not issued by the COP28 team, has no basis in truth, and must be entirely disregarded as fake news,” the official COP28 UAE account said Wednesday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Official COP28 news will only be published via our verified social media and our press office,” it added.

The clarification came shortly after Al-Jaber forcefully pushed back over reports earlier in the week that said the UAE planned to use its role as the host of the climate summit as a platform to lobby foreign government officials for oil and gas deals.

Asked to comment on the reports at a small news briefing, Al-Jaber responded, “Knowing that we are only one day out, I wasn’t really planning on answering such a question but, you know what, I will answer it.”

“These allegations are false, not true, incorrect and not accurate. And it is an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency,” he added.

Leaked records were published Monday by the Centre for Climate Reporting, which worked in collaboration with the BBC. It said the UAE intended to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 countries during the forthcoming climate conference, which is scheduled to run from Thursday through to Dec. 12.

CCR, which has received funding from the likes of Greenpeace and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, said it was able to verify the accuracy of the leaked documents via an unnamed whistleblower.

“The documents referred to in the BBC article are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings. It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting,” a COP28 spokesperson told CNBC on Monday.

COP28 is the United Nations’ upcoming round of global climate talks. The two-week-long summit will be held in Dubai, with scores of world leaders and government ministers from nearly 200 countries expected to attend — alongside an estimated 70,000 delegates.

It is regarded as a pivotal opportunity to accelerate action to address the climate crisis at a time when global temperatures are hitting record highs and extreme weather events are affecting people worldwide.

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