The comments from the UAE oil CEO are "verging on climate denial," a scientist interviewed by The Guardian said
“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,” Sultan Al-Jaber, who is CEO of United Arab Emirates state oil company ADNOC, said in November during an online SHE Changes Climate event. He also claimed that phasing out fossil fuels would “take the world back into caves.”
“Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development,” he said, “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
Al-Jaber made the comments in response to Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former UN special envoy for climate change, who urged him to push COP28 toward eliminating the use of oil, coal and gas. “We have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel,” Robinson said. “That is the one decision that COP28 can take under your presidency, and in many ways, because you’re head of ADNOC, you could actually take it with more credibility.”
Al-Jaber said, “1.5 is my North Star, and a phase down and a phase out of fossil fuel in my view is inevitable. It is essential, but we need to be real, serious and pragmatic about it.”
“The science is very acute now,” Robinson retorted. “We don’t have any time.”
Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, told The Guardian that Robinson and Al-Jaber’s conversation was “an extraordinary, revealing, worrying and belligerent exchange.”
“‘Sending us back to caves’ is the oldest of fossil fuel industry tropes: it’s verging on climate denial,” he added.
Al-Jaber’s stance contradicts the position taken by the UN and Secretary General António Guterres, who told COP28 delegates on Friday that eliminating fossil fuels is necessary to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius: “The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate.”
Environmental activists sounded the alarm in January when Al-Jaber was announced to lead the 2023 COP, expressing concern that his position as an oil executive constitutes a conflict of interest. “Like last year’s summit, we’re increasingly seeing fossil fuel interests taking control of the process and shaping it to meet their own needs,” Teresa Anderson, global lead of climate justice at ActionAid, said in a statement at the time.
The summit, which runs through Dec. 12, is charged with putting together a climate agreement, though it remains to be seen whether that agreement will call for a phase out or phase down of fossil fuels. Currently, more than 100 countries in Africa, Europe, the Pacific, and the Caribbean back phasing out widespread fossil fuel use.