In a recent virtual event hosted by She Changes Climate, Sultan Al Jaber, the President of COP28 and CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, Adnoc, made a statement that has sent ripples across the global climate community. His claim that there is “no science” supporting the need to phase out fossil fuels to limit global heating to 1.5C has not only drawn sharp criticism but also raised concerns about the direction of the upcoming COP28 summit.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) 28, a pivotal gathering for global climate action, is expected to further the goals set in the Paris Agreement. With over 100 countries advocating for the phase-out of fossil fuels, the summit’s decisions will be critical in shaping the future response to climate change.
Al Jaber, in response to questions from Mary Robinson, former UN special envoy for climate change, rejected the notion of phasing out fossil fuels, arguing that such a move would regress global development. His statements, which directly contradict the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s stance, have been labeled as “verging on climate denial” by scientists.
The reaction to Al Jaber’s comments has been swift and severe. Robinson, emphasizing the crisis’s impact on women and children, has challenged the COP28 President’s commitment to climate action. Guterres, reaffirming the need to stop burning fossil fuels, underscores the clear scientific consensus on this issue.
Climate scientists and experts have been unanimous in their criticism of Al Jaber’s remarks. The IPCC and IEA have long established that limiting global warming to 1.5C necessitates the phase-out of fossil fuels. Experts like Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, and Dr. Friederike Otto from Imperial College London, have emphasized the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels and dismissed Al Jaber’s claims as unfounded.
In his defense, Al Jaber called for a more pragmatic approach, asking for a roadmap to phase out fossil fuels without hindering sustainable development. A spokesperson for COP28 reiterated Al Jaber’s commitment to addressing climate change, citing the UAE’s efforts in decarbonizing oil and gas and investing in renewable energy.
Al Jaber’s position complicates the COP28 agenda, especially in defining terms like “phase-out” and “phase-down” of fossil fuels. These definitions and the role of technologies like carbon capture and storage will significantly influence the summit’s outcomes.
Al Jaber’s dual role at COP28 and Adnoc has raised questions about conflicts of interest, especially in light of leaked documents suggesting the UAE’s use of climate meetings to promote oil and gas deals. Adnoc’s expansion plans and failure to report methane emissions have also been sources of controversy.
The discussions and decisions at COP28 will be a litmus test for the world’s commitment to addressing climate change. The summit could either mark a significant step towards a sustainable future or be a missed opportunity, depending on how it addresses the fossil fuel phase-out debate.
The upcoming COP28 summit stands at a critical juncture in the fight against climate change. The controversy surrounding Sultan Al Jaber’s statements highlights the complex and often conflicting interests at play. As the world watches, the decisions made at COP28 will not only shape international climate policy but also signal the global community’s readiness to confront the climate crisis head-on.