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UAE Selects Oil Boss for Climate Talks

Critics worry it’s part of a larger pattern.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
Sultan al-Jaber speaks at an oil conference in the UAE.
Sultan al-Jaber speaks at an oil conference in the UAE.
Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, speaks during the opening ceremony of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, on Nov. 11, 2019. AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the United Arab Emirates’s new climate chief, Human Rights Watch’s 2023 world report, and a new law affecting health care workers in Zimbabwe.

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UAE Picks Oil Company Chief to Lead Climate Talks

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the United Arab Emirates’s new climate chief, Human Rights Watch’s 2023 world report, and a new law affecting health care workers in Zimbabwe.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


UAE Picks Oil Company Chief to Lead Climate Talks

On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates picked the leader of its state-owned oil company to be president of the United Nations climate change talks (or COP28) in Dubai in late autumn of this year.

Sultan al-Jaber is CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. He is also chair of Masdar, a clean energy company, and is the longtime climate envoy for the UAE, a country with both a state-run oil company (it is the third-largest OPEC producer) and the worlds largest single-site solar park.

His nomination immediately drew harsh criticism, with Greenpeace, for example, saying it was “deeply alarmed.” Jabers supporters stressed his experience. He has called for called for “a pragmatic, realistic and solutions-oriented approach” to tackling the climate crisis and holding the warming of the planet to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050.

Last year’s conference—COP27—was hosted by Egypt. As NPR recalled in its report on Thursday, a call by some countries to reduce oil and natural gas use was not brought up for public discussion in the meeting presided over by Egyptian Foreign Minister ​​Sameh Shoukry.

COP27 also saw an increase in attendees associated with the world’s largest oil and gas giants, leading some experts to worry that the forum for addressing the climate crisis has become captured by the very interests contributing to it. Foreign Policy’s editor in chief, Ravi Agrawal, discussed what climate negotiators around the world should keep in mind in the run-up to COP28 with Jonathan Pershing, formerly the Biden administration’s No. 2 global climate envoy, in FP Live on Thursday.


What We’re Following Today 

New Human Rights Watch world report. Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its 2023 world report. The report—which HRWs acting executive director, Tirana Hassan, summarized in an article for FP—focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and President Xi Jinping’s China as well as the hypocrisy of those setting themselves up to counter Beijing. As Hassan writes in the HRW report, “[Indian] Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has mimicked many of the same abuses that have enabled Chinese state repression.” The report notes that autocratic rule is often misunderstood as a guarantee of stability, arguing that authoritarian stability in fact “erodes every pillar needed for a functional society based on the rule of law,” pointing to calls for justice in Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar.

Zimbabwe law threatens health care workers. A new piece of legislation in Zimbabwe forbids health care workers deemed “essential” for striking for more than three days. Those in violation of the law could face a fine or even imprisonment of up to six months. Health workers warn that the bill will force health care workers to emigrate—according to Zimbabwe’s Health Service Board, more than 4,000 doctors and nurses left the country since 2021 or adopted a “go-slow attitude toward work, as Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, told the Guardian. The law came into effect this week as health care workers planned a national strike over pay.


Keep an Eye On

China warns against visiting elderly relatives. People in China have been warned not to visit their older relatives this Lunar New Year if those relatives had not yet been infected by COVID-19. The holiday begins later this month, and this year’s event was meant to mark a return to normalcy. But a COVID-19 wave sweeping the country is expected to only worsen as people travel for the Lunar New Year—putting a damper on festive celebrations.

Brigitte backs French uniform bill. The first lady of France, Brigitte Macron, has said she supports making school uniforms mandatory, a move that she believes could save students time and money. Macron, herself a former teacher (indeed, her husband, French President Emmanuel Macron, was her former student), made her comments as the French National Assembly debated a bill that would make school uniforms compulsory. The country’s education minister, Pap Ndiaye, does not support the bill.

House Democrats urge Biden to bounce Bolsonaro. In a letter, dozens of House Democrats urged U.S. President Joe Biden to not “provide shelter” to former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. They asked for possible revocation of Bolsonaro’s visa and for “the Department of Justice and other relevant federal agencies to hold accountable, as appropriate, any actors based in Florida who may have financed or supported the violent crimes of January 8.” Brazilian officials have been in touch with Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democrat who was chair of the Jan. 6 committee, to discuss last Sunday’s storming of Brazilian government buildings by Bolsonaro supporters.


Thursday’s Most Read

Former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow on the Moment He Realized Russia Would Launch a Full-Scale Invasion by Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer

Lessons for the Next War by FP Contributors

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up. by Stephen M. Walt


Odds and Ends 

Cats and clairvoyants. After a passenger’s cat went missing, Bolivia’s state airline called an “interspecies communicator.” The owner of Tito, the cat, told Bolivian media that the airline stopped its search after a week but agreed to compensate the animal psychic while she continued her search. At the time of writing, the psychic had been in touch with the family to say she sensed Tito was alive, though Tito is still missing. The case of the missing cat has renewed criticism of the airline, which received a two-star rating from aviation site Skytrax. The Bolivian opposition denounces state-owned companies as ultimately being political tools.

Correction, Jan. 13, 2023: A previous version misspelled Rep. Bennie Thompson’s name.

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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