DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Activists stage a protest on day thirteen of the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference on December 13, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The conference has gone into an extra day as delegations continue to negotiate over the wording of the final agreement. The COP28, which was originally scheduled to run from November 30 through December 12, has brought together stakeholders, including international heads of state and other leaders, scientists, environmentalists, indi

How 2023 shaped the Middle East’s post-oil future amid Gulf energy transitions laden with controversy 

December 2023 Al-Monitor Trend Report 

2,247 words


The curtain has closed at COP28 in Dubai after delivering a historic global agreement to “transition away” from fossil fuels, but the UAE continues pumping out dealmaking shaping the path to a post-oil future. On Dec. 18, Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio announced a $2.2 billion investment from Abu Dhabi-backed fund CYVN, the same day that Dubai-based decarbonization company Positive Zero revealed it could receive up to $400 million from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. 

Still, that came as Abu Dhabi's state oil giant ADNOC on Dec. 20 revealed a 15-year agreement to deliver at least 1 million metric tons a year of liquefied natural gas to a subsidiary of China's ENN Natural Gas. Expect more of the same going forward. This juxtaposition only underlines how the UAE and other petrostates in the Middle East are simultaneously seeking to capitalize on the clean energy transition, while leaning on fossil fuel profits as long as they can to finance economic diversification drives.   

This strategy has been a key storyline during a year bookended by the Middle East hosting back-to-back UN climate summits — putting the region at the center of the climate discussion at a critical moment, while only upping scrutiny on the perilous gambit that regional energy exporters are pursuing as they work to influence a fossil fuel phase out to their own benefit. That culminated when the UAE hosted COP28 between Nov. 29 to Dec. 12, with Al-Monitor's Jack Dutton on hand reporting as global decision makers descended on Dubai to wrangle over the next steps in collective climate action. The UN climate summit delivered on dealmaking, with the oil-rich UAE presiding over a breakthrough that could loosen the fossil fuel industry’s grip on the global economy. 

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