UAE Fossil Fuel

Does the UAE Really Want Fossil Fuels Phased Out?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long been associated with its vast reserves of fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas. However, in recent years, as the world faces the pressing challenges of climate change, there has been growing global concern about the impact of fossil fuel consumption on climate change and the environment. In light of this, the question arises: Does the UAE truly have a genuine commitment to phasing out fossil fuels as COP28, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is going to be held in UAE?

The upcoming COP28 will assemble global leaders for the purpose of addressing the urgent matter of climate change and exploring strategies to counter it. However, the United Arab Emirates, despite the increasing production of oil, is leveraging COP28 as a means to conceal its reliance on fossil fuels.

It appears that the United Arab Emirates does not have any immediate intentions to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels. COP28 seems to be a tool that the UAE is well aware of, allowing authoritarian regimes to conveniently mask their dependence on oil while making commitments to tackle global environmental concerns.

The UAE’s dependence on fossil fuels

Over the course of many years, the United Arab Emirates has relied extensively on fossil fuels, specifically oil and gas, as their predominant sources of energy generation. As the seventh-largest oil-producing nation globally, the UAE currently produces approximately 3.1 million barrels per day. The oil sector plays a crucial role in the country’s economy, contributing around 30% to its GDP through oil exports. The substantial reserves of oil in the UAE have played a vital role in fostering economic expansion and progress, with oil exports constituting a significant portion of the country’s GDP.

The UAE is anticipated to further expand its oil production to reach a capacity of 5 million barrels per day, leading to increased emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. This expansion in oil production serves as a wake-up call for the global community, signaling that the UAE has no immediate intentions to curtail its oil production. Consequently, doubts arise concerning the UAE’s suitability as the host of COP 28, the climate conference and its intentions to phased out fossil fuels in near future.

Appointment of Sultan Al Jaber 

The appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the current head of ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company), as the president of COP28 reflects the UAE’s commitment to addressing climate change. How can an Oil Company CEO preside over the Climate gathering? This decision has sparked controversy among activists who view it as a concerning indication that global climate policy is being influenced by the fossil fuel industry.

It is worth noting that Al Jaber , in addition to his role at ADNOC, is also the founder and former CEO of Masdar, an initiative aimed at showcasing the UAE’s investments in clean energy. He currently serves as the chairman of Masdar. The fact that the UAE’s oil reserves are predominantly located in Abu Dhabi, the same region where Masdar City is situated, raises questions about the real extent of the country’s transition to renewable energy sources.

Masdar City is part of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), which is fully owned by the Abu Dhabi government. This interconnectedness between the oil industry and clean energy initiatives within the UAE adds complexity to the perception of the country’s energy transition efforts.

The UAE’s controversial plan to fully decarbonize.

The UAE has adopted a controversial strategy of simultaneously achieving full decarbonization and economic diversification, while maximizing oil exports and exporting every drop of oil it can. Such an approach is a Question over Decarbonizing. Despite their exceptionally high emissions per capita, the UAE and its regional neighbors are considered developing countries bearing little responsibility for historic emissions.

Additionally, the country seems not interested in a transition towards renewable and nuclear energy sources domestically. This approach has sparked significant controversy, suggesting that the UAE intends to persist in oil production until its reserves are completely depleted. These actions indicate that the UAE is unwilling to curtail its production of fossil fuels. 

UAE’s Carbon Neutrality by 2050 Appears to be a Hoax

There is no evidence that the UAE will be carbon neutral by 2050. While the UAE has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, recent reports raise concerns about their commitment. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), currently ranked as the world’s 11th largest oil and gas producer, is actively working to increase its production capacity by another 19 percent by 2027. In 2021 alone, ADNOC produced over a billion barrels of oil equivalent, marking a record high. However, the company has even more ambitious plans to expand its production portfolio by 7.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE), which would position it as the fifth-largest increase globally. To facilitate this expansion, ADNOC announced a substantial $150 billion investment over five years in November 2022.

Independent experts have criticized the UAE’s climate targets and policies, considering them “highly insufficient.” Additionally, the United Nations Secretary-General recently called for a halt to all licensing or funding of new oil and gas ventures. These developments cast doubt on the UAE’s true commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels and achieving their carbon neutrality goals.

World not ready to ‘switch off’ fossil fuels

According to the UAE, the global community is not prepared to completely abandon the use of fossil fuels. Nations should reach a consensus to gradually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions rather than focusing solely on ending the production of oil, gas, and coal. Mariam Almheiri, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the UAE, emphasized that completely phasing out fossil fuels would have negative repercussions for countries heavily reliant on them for revenue or facing challenges in transitioning to renewable energy sources. 

The stance taken by the UAE minister clearly indicates their lack of interest in gradually reducing the production of fossil fuels.

Despite the growing global concern about climate change and the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, there are significant doubts about the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) genuine commitment to phasing out these energy sources. The UAE, known for its vast reserves of oil and gas, continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels, with plans to expand its oil production capacity in the coming years. The appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the head of ADNOC, as the president of COP28 raises concerns about the influence of the fossil fuel industry on global climate policy. 

While the UAE has showcased clean energy initiatives, such as Masdar City, the close ties between the oil industry and these initiatives add complexity to the country’s energy transition efforts. Moreover, the UAE’s simultaneous pursuit of decarbonization and maximizing oil exports suggests a lack of commitment to curbing fossil fuel production. 

The UAE’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 appears dubious, as the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company plans to increase its production capacity significantly. Independent experts have criticized the UAE’s climate targets as insufficient, further undermining their commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels. Ultimately, the UAE’s stance that the world is not ready to abandon fossil fuels indicates a lack of interest in gradually reducing their production.