Climate analytics CEO labels Sultan Al Jaber's comments at COP28 as 'climate denial'

Over 100 nations are in favor of ending the use of fossil fuels. The decision between advocating for this outright in the final COP28 agreement or opting for softer terms like 'phase-down' is among the most intensely debated topics at the summit.

Climate analytics CEO labels Sultan Al Jaber's comments at COP28 as 'climate denial'
AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
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Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE's minister of industry and President of COP28, has controversially stated that there is “no science” supporting the need to phase out fossil fuels to maintain global temperatures within a 1.5C increase, as reported by the Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting.

Additionally, Al Jaber argued that abandoning fossil fuels would hinder sustainable development, remarking “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

Scientists have expressed serious concerns about these statements, describing them as “incredibly concerning” and bordering on “climate denial.” 

During a live online event on 21 November, Al Jaber's blunt remarks were in response to inquiries from Mary Robinson, the leader of the Elders group and ex-UN climate change envoy.

Besides his role at COP28 in Dubai, Al Jaber is also the CEO of ADNOC, the United Arab Emirates’ state oil firm, a position that is widely perceived as a significant conflict of interest.

Over 100 nations are in favor of ending the use of fossil fuels, and the decision between advocating for this outright in the final COP28 agreement or opting for softer terms like “phase-down” is among the most intensely debated topics at the summit. This decision could be crucial in defining the summit's success. Significant and swift reductions are essential to eliminate fossil fuel emissions completely and to mitigate the increasingly severe effects of climate change.

Speaking with Al Jaber at the She Changes Climate event, Robinson stated that, “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone … and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel. That is the one decision that COP28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of ADNOC, you could actually take it with more credibility.”

Al Jaber responded, “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”

Robinson replied, stating that she "read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuel in the future.” Al Jaber responded: “You’re reading your own media, which is biased and wrong. I am telling you I am the man in charge.”

Al Jaber responded:

Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.

I don’t think [you] will be able to help solve the climate problem by pointing fingers or contributing to the polarisation and the divide that is already happening in the world. Show me the solutions. Stop the pointing of fingers. Stop it.

During the event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the necessity of completely ceasing fossil fuel use to maintain global warming within 1.5C, urging a clear timeframe for this phase-out.

Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare described Al Jaber's defense of fossil fuels as alarming and akin to climate denial. Experts like Dr. Friederike Otto and professor Sir David King stress the urgent need for fossil fuel phase-out by 2035 to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.

Otto also refuted the notion that fossil fuels are essential for developing countries, highlighting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's findings that sustainable development goals are unattainable with current high-emission practices.

A COP28 spokesperson defended Al Jaber, citing his commitment to reducing emissions in the oil and gas industry and aligning with the 1.5C goal.

However, Al Jaber's dual role as head of the UAE's state oil company, ADNOC, and renewable energy firm Masdar, raises concerns about conflicts of interest, especially after leaked documents suggested the UAE's intent to use climate meetings to promote oil and gas deals.

The debate at COP28 includes the possibility of a fossil fuel phase-out or a softer phase-down, with the US supporting phase-out and nations like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China opposing it.

The outcome of this discussion is seen as pivotal for the success of COP28 and the future of global climate action.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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