COP28 President Sparks Outcry After He Claims, COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates President Sultan al-Jaber is under fire for saying there is “no science” behind efforts to phase out fossil fuels, a demand that many feel will ultimately determine the success of the United Nations climate conference.
COP28 President Sparks Outcry After He Claims
In comments first reported by The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting on Sunday, al-Jaber, COP28 president and United Arab Emirates climate chief, suggested that phasing out fossil fuels would not allow for sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
Scientists and environmentalists have called al-Jaber’s remarks, made during a live internet session on Nov. 21, “farcical,” “beyond astonishing,” and bordering on climate denial.
University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann accused al-Jaber of “making a complete mockery” of the COP28 negotiations in a social media post, urging UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to speak out on the issue.
Because he also serves as the CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Al-Jaber was viewed as a contentious choice to oversee the COP28 deliberations in Dubai.
At a press conference on Monday, al-Jaber stated that his team “very much believes and respects the science.” He went on to say that he was taken aback by the “constant and repeated attempts to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency.”
Separately, a COP28 official told CNBC that al-Jaber has been “unwavering” in his belief that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires action in a variety of regions and sectors.
“The COP President is clear that phasing down and out of fossil fuels is unavoidable, and that we must keep 1.5°C within reach.” We’re not sure what this tale was supposed to reveal. Nothing in it is new or breaking news.”
Beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, so-called tipping points become increasingly likely. Tipping points are the points at which minor adjustments can cause huge changes in the Earth’s overall life support system.
When it comes to the future, “the COP President is focused on working with parties to deliver a plan that will deliver maximum transition and minimal disruption for everyone in the world,” a spokeswoman for the COP stated. “He has repeatedly communicated our position on fossil fuels and invited all parties to work together and come up with solutions that can achieve alignment, common ground, and consensus.”
The COP28 host has been “excited with the progress” made thus far, as well as the delivery of a decision on the global stocktake, according to the spokeswoman. “Attempts to undermine this will not soften our resolve,” they were quoted as saying.
‘Very Fundamental Physics’ COP28 President Sparks Outcry After He Claims
The uproar over al-Jaber’s remarks comes as COP28 prepares to fight over the future of fossil laws.
For nearly three decades, policymakers from nearly 200 countries have gathered at the United Nations’ annual climate conference to address the primary cause of the climate crisis: the use of coal, oil, and gas.
The language of the final agreement, which is expected by or around the end of the meeting on December 12, will be closely scrutinized. A “phase out” commitment would almost certainly necessitate a shift away from fossil fuels until their use is eliminated, but a “phase down” commitment could signify a reduction in their usage — but not an actual end to their use.
There’s also a debate over whether an agreement should focus on “abated” fossil fuels, which are trapped and stocked with carbon capture and storage technologies, or “unabated” fossil fuels, which are widely assumed to be produced and used without significant reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.
DUBAI, ARAB EMIRATES, DECEMBER 3: In this COP28-supplied handout image, Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, attends the event ‘Delivering Early Warnings For All’ on December 3, 2023, at Expo City Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The COP28, which runs from November 30 to December 12, brings together stakeholders such as international heads of state and other leaders, scientists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples representatives, activists, and others to discuss and agree on global climate change mitigation measures.
“If we fail to phase out fossil fuels, we will fail in climate mitigation,” Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, told CNBC in Dubai.
When asked to respond to al-Jaber’s remarks, Taalas stated that there is “very clear science” supporting proposals for a fossil fuel phase-out.
“The effect of carbon dioxide on atmospheric warming is fundamental physics.” There’s no doubt about it.”
John Kerry, the United States’ climate envoy, was also asked to comment on al-Jaber’s remarks. Kerry responded to Tania Bryer of CNBC on Sunday, saying, “That’s not the argument.”
“The G7 countries voted that there should be a phasing out of unmitigated fossil fuel emissions and what there is science for is keeping 1.5 degrees as your North Star,” stated Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Every decision we make should be geared to say, ‘does this advance the 1.5 degrees or is it going to be more destructive and take us in the wrong direction?'”
Separately, former US Vice President Al Gore allegedly stated on Sunday that the UAE’s hosting of COP28 constituted a violation of public trust.
“They are abusing the public’s trust by naming the CEO of one of the largest and least responsible oil companies in the world as head of the COP,” Gore was quoted as saying by Reuters.
When al-Jaber was named COP28 president earlier this year, his office stated that he would play a “crucial role” in forging agreement and achieving “ambitious climate outcomes.”
ADNOC’s spokeswoman previously stated, “All of the current energy transition scenarios, including by the IEA, show that some level of oil and gas will be needed into the future.”