The upcoming COP28 in Dubai is stirring controversy as Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the President of COP28, has come under scrutiny for his stance on climate action. Critics argue that Al Jaber’s priorities lie in the fame associated with his role rather than earnestly addressing the climate agenda due to his home country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), being a major oil producer.
Al Jaber’s recent statements have raised eyebrows, as he urged governments attending COP28 to abandon what he referred to as “fantasies” about transitioning to new energy systems and dismissed discussions about phasing out fossil fuels as a “trap of division.” This stance has drawn criticism, with many asserting that addressing climate change necessitates bold action and international cooperation, not dismissive rhetoric.
Despite his acknowledgment of the inevitability of phasing out fossil fuels, Al Jaber appears to shift the responsibility onto consumers, emphasizing that “it’s the consumer who contributes to increasing CO2 emissions, not the producer.” This approach echoes a familiar strategy employed by fossil fuel companies, diverting blame away from the industry and its enablers and placing the onus on individuals.
The heart of the controversy lies in the fact that ADNOC, among all oil and gas companies, is poised to become the second-largest expander of oil and gas extraction in the near future. This starkly contrasts the projections from the International Energy Agency, which clearly indicate that peak fossil fuel production is rapidly approaching.
Furthermore, the UAE is part of a group of 20 countries that bear significant responsibility for nearly 90% of carbon dioxide pollution stemming from new oil and gas extraction projects between 2023 and 2050. Critics argue that this glaring contradiction highlights the UAE’s inadequate commitment to phasing out fossil fuels.
While the COP28 presidency has been vocal about its ambition to triple renewable energy by 2030, critics emphasize that an increase in renewable energy does not equate to a substantial phase-out of fossil fuels. The UAE has made significant strides in renewable energy development but has simultaneously expanded its fossil fuel capacity, undermining the global climate effort.
To effectively combat climate change and limit global warming to 1.5°C, experts emphasize that targets for phasing out fossil fuels, as established by the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), must go hand in hand with renewable energy and energy efficiency objectives. They argue that all these targets are attainable at COP28, and the international community must act decisively to achieve them.
Romain Ioualalen, the Global Policy Lead at Oil Change International, emphasized the urgency of the situation. He noted that at COP27, a coalition of 80 countries pushed for an agreement to phase out fossil fuels rapidly, equitably, and with proper funding. Ioualalen stressed that the success of COP28 should be measured by countries’ commitment to ending fossil fuel expansion and implementing a just and equitable phase-out facilitated by necessary funding for tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency.
According to experts, the stark reality is that the era of fossil fuels is ending, as both the International Energy Agency and the IPCC concur. However, Al Jaber’s characterization of the science-backed demand to phase out fossil fuels as a “fantasy” raises questions about his commitment to the 1.5°C limit. Critics argue that ADNOC’s financial interests may drive his stance more than the imperative to address the existential climate crisis.
The focus, they contend, should be on implementing decisive actions rather than delaying the phase-out of all fossil fuels by relying on unproven technologies such as abatement and carbon capture and storage. COP28 presents a critical juncture for global leaders to show their dedication to averting the worst consequences of climate change through a managed, planned decline of fossil fuel production.
As the world watches, the question remains: is Al Jaber committed to a successful COP28 or primarily concerned with ADNOC’s bottom line? The urgency of the climate crisis demands answers.