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Loss and Damage Control at COP 28

A lot of effort into limiting PR damage for oil majors, a little into limiting climate damage for humanity


The Loss and Damage Consortium is maintaining a live account of the COP 28 proceedings—bookmark it!


The New York Times celebrates the start of COP 28 on November 30th.

The biggest story of the ongoing climate talks in the United Arab Emirates is its takeover by the global fossil-fuel industry, as exemplified by the president of COP 28, Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, whose main job is CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods is in Dubai to ensure the talks do not recognize the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels. Moreover, ExxonMobil is in a full-court press of the press. On November 30, the first day of COP 28, The New York Times included a full-page greenwashing ad from ExxonMobil. Reuters coverage of Al Gore’s criticism of ExxonMobil’s presence at COP 28 was smothered by greenwashing ads from ExxonMobil. The Punchbowl News political newsletter today is Presented by ExxonMobil.

Speaking of the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels, on Sunday the Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting reported that al Jaber “claimed there is ‘no science’ indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C,” in an ill-tempered response to former UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson. Robinson challenged him during the conversation about climate and gender on November 21st to take leadership and responsibility as the CEO of Adnoc to have COP 28 call for the “urgent” phase out of fossil fuels. Al Jaber instead chastised Robinson for being immature and “alarmist”:

“I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I am not in any way signing up to a discussion that is alarmist. I am here factual and I respect the science. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5 [°C warming limit]. 1.5 is my north star. A phasedown and a phaseout of fossil fuel is essential, but we need to be serious and pragmatic about it.”

He went on to accuse Robinson of wanting to “take the world back into caves,” a classic climate-denier trope.

Unsurprisingly, climate experts found Al Jaber’s mansplainer comments to be an absurd misinterpretation of the urgency of 1.5°C scenarios like the International Energy Agency’s Net-Zero report, which envisions an end to fossil-fuel exploration and the very rapid decline in production and use, relying on the widespread deployment of unproven technologies to capture climate pollutants to allow for a de minimis use of fossil fuels in 2050. Frankly, the 1.5°C target is now widely considered unrealistic (unless global civilization collapses) by climate scientists, which is why the rapid phase out of fossil fuels is a moral necessity.

As Dr. Friederike Otto told the Guardian:

“The science of climate change has been clear for decades: we need to stop burning fossil fuels. A failure to phase out fossil fuels at Cop28 will put several millions more vulnerable people in the firing line of climate change. This would be a terrible legacy for Cop28.”

This morning, al Jaber held a damage-control emergency press conference next to IPCC chair Jim Skea, claiming:

“I have said over and over the phase-down and the phase-out of fossil fuel is inevitable. In fact, it is essential.”

He then winked and pointed finger guns at Darren Woods, mouthing what appeared to be the words, “I got you, bro.” They then left together for the COP 28 Mojo Dojo Casa House Presented By ExxonMobil.1


A post shared by @ilwolhongdam

The good news from COP 28’s first day is that the international Loss and Damage Fund will be established to support developing nations facing climate disasters. The bad news is that the initial pledges of seed funding, totalling $429 million, are about 1000 times smaller than what is actually needed by front-line nations to survive the ongoing ravages of climate pollution. In comparison, the drilling arm of al Jaber’s Adnoc boasted $802 million in net profits last year.

In line with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry’s promise in July to Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) that “under no circumstances” would the Biden administration support a loss and damage fund, the United States announced an “insulting” contribution of $17.5 million.

That same day, the United States conducted an oil and gas lease sale for Oklahoma and New Mexico that netted the federal government $22.5 million. The U.S. also held a $3.4 million lease sale on November 28, with future sales during COP 28 tomorrow and December 12.

Biden is asking Congress for $106,000 million to support war efforts in Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, but Republicans plan to block it because it’s not cruel enough to immigrants seeking asylum from developing nations facing climate disasters.

Rep. Brian Mast gets an unequivocal opposition to loss and damage funding from U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry, July 13, 2023.


Under Biden, the United States has become the world’s greatest producer and exporter of fossil gas, the crowning result of a toxic two-decade fracking boom with notoriously lax regulation. Methane, the primary component of fossil gas and a much more powerful greenhouse pollutant than carbon dioxide, has been leaking into the atmosphere at a frightening clip.

On Saturday, al Jaber announced a voluntary pledge from oil and gas majors like Adnoc and ExxonMobil to start reducing leakage, but not production, of methane.

Speaking as a representative of the world’s largest fossil gas exporter, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced at COP 28 the same day the agency has issued a rule to “sharply reduce emissions of methane and other harmful air pollution from oil and natural gas operations.” The rule finally puts into place basic standards for leak monitoring and prevention from active and inactive wells and compressor stations. It does not apply to leakage from exported liquefied natural gas (LNG), a major global loophole.

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1 I kid, I kid. I’m sure al Jaber is only staying on at Adnoc to ensure its phase-out.

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