Sultan Al Jaber, a United Arab Emirates oil chief executive, is heading the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Concerns have been raised after a report highlighted that the president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) climate summit had cast doubt on the effectiveness of reducing fossil fuel use for global warming.
The comments, made by Sultan Al Jaber at the She Changes Climate panel event in November, were highlighted in an article published by The Guardian on Sunday.
Al Jaber made the claim in response to a question from former Irish president Mary Robinson, on whether he would lead on phasing out fossil fuels.
The Emirati oil executive and politician added that “there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5”.
Robinson questioned his answer, replying: “I read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuel in the future.”
Al Jaber replied: “You’re reading your own media, which is biased and wrong. I am telling you I am the man in charge.”
“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,” Al Jaber added.
The future role of fossil fuels is high on the agenda at this year’s COP28 climate summit, which is being held from 30 November until 12 December 2023 at Expo City, Dubai.
Several scientists and climate groups slammed Al Jaber’s comments as “science-denying”.
“That report, approved unanimously by 195 countries including the UAE, shows a variety of ways to limit warming to 1.5°C — all of which indicate a de facto phase-out of fossil fuels in the first half of the century,” said Joeri Rogelj, a climate professor at Imperial College London.
Mohamed Adow, director of the climate think tank Power Shift Africa, said Al Jaber’s remarks were a “wake-up call” to the world and COP28 negotiators.
“They are not going to get any help from the COP Presidency in delivering a strong outcome on a fossil fuel phase-out,” Adow said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Cop28 said: “The IEA and IPCC 1.5C scenarios clearly state that fossil fuels will have to play a role in the future energy system, albeit a smaller one. The Cop president was quoting the science and leading climate experts.”
“He has clearly said that the oil and gas industry must tackle scope 1 and 2 emissions [from their operations], must invest in clean energy and clean technologies to address scope 3 emissions [from burning fuels], and that all industry must align around keeping the north star of 1.5C within reach,” the spokesperson added.
“Once again, this is clearly part of a continued effort to undermine the Cop presidency’s tangible achievements and a misrepresentation of our position and successes to date.”
As chair of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), Al Jaber leads a company that pumped 2.7m barrels of oil a day in 2021, with plans to double that by 2027, according to the BBC.
Despite representing the oil and climate industries, Al Jaber has stated that his two positions do not conflict.
“Never in history has a COP president confronted the oil industry, let alone the fact that he’s a CEO of an oil company,” he told the Guardian in October of this year.
Over 130 lawmakers from the US and EU have written to the UN calling for his removal from the COP presidency.