As world leaders gather in Dubai for the COP28 global climate summit from November 30 to December 12, the central focus will be on how to best tackle climate change by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable and clean energy sources. However, just as important will be the geopolitical dynamics that shape energy flows around the world—from conflicts in global hotspots like Ukraine and Gaza to intensifying competition between great powers like the United States and China. The Gulf states are becoming increasingly pivotal players in each of these areas, making the Gulf region an important bellwether for the evolution of the global climate transition.
The Gulf at the Center of Global Diplomacy
Perhaps the best illustration of the Gulf’s dynamic role in this intersection between energy, geopolitics, and the climate transition can be seen in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 not only set off the biggest geopolitical standoff between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War, but also reshaped global energy markets. The U.S. and EU passed sanctions against Russia’s energy sector, to which Moscow responded with the familiar tactic of natural gas cutoffs to Europe. This, in turn, drove the EU to diversify its imports away from Russia, which had accounted for 40% of the bloc’s natural gas supply and 25% of its oil supply prior to the war.