UN Climate Summit Chief: ‘No Science’ Behind Effort to Eliminate Fossil Fuels
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the president of this year’s UN climate summit, has challenged the prevailing narrative on fossil fuel elimination, asserting that there is “no science” supporting such a move. During a virtual event last month, Al Jaber’s remarks raised eyebrows as he questioned the feasibility of sustainable economic growth without fossil fuels, stating, “unless you want to take the world back into caves.” The controversy surrounding his comments reflects the deep divides within the UN community on climate action.
Al Jaber is skeptical that phasing out fossil fuels would keep temperatures below the widely-endorsed 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, supposedly a critical marker in the fight against global warming. He challenged the scientific basis of phasing out fossil fuels to achieve this goal, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive roadmap that considers sustainable socioeconomic development.
Not surprisingly, Al Jaber’s comments drew criticism from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and climate activists advocating for a more robust international commitment to renewable energy. The debate underscores the challenges in finding common ground on the urgency of climate action and the economic realities faced by nations heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
In response to the backlash, a spokesperson for COP28 tried to downplay Al Jaber’s statement and asserted that his agenda remains focused on working with parties to deliver a plan that maximizes the transition to cleaner energy with minimal disruption. The spokesperson dismissed the criticism as attempts to undermine the presidency’s transparent and achievement-backed agenda.
The presidency of Al Jaber, a politician and businessman from the United Arab Emirates, has been marred by controversies related to potential conflicts of interest. Holding roles in a state-owned renewable firm and a state-owned oil and gas giant, leaked documents indicated discussions about potential business dealings during COP28-related meetings.
Despite the controversies, the ongoing conference has seen significant developments. Several developed countries, including the U.S., pledged substantial sums to an international “climate reparations” fund, indicating a commitment to address the impacts of climate change. Additionally, the U.S. approved new methane emissions regulations, signaling potential challenges for the domestic oil and gas industry.
As the COP28 conference unfolds, Al Jaber’s stance highlights the complexities and differing perspectives within the global climate change discourse. The push for green energy faces resistance from those concerned about the economic implications of a rapid fossil fuel phase-out, setting the stage for intense negotiations and potential policy shifts in the fight over climate change.