COP28 president says fossil fuels phasedown is inevitable

BERLIN – The new COP28 president of the United Arab Emirates declared on Thursday that the phasedown of fossil fuels is unavoidable, making a stronger statement than his earlier ones in which he advocated for reducing fossil fuel emissions rather than the fuels themselves.

Climate activists have criticised Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber for taking what they perceived to be a mild stance on fossil fuels, asking for the curbing of their emissions rather than eliminating their use. Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber also oversees the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates.

By adopting technologies to trap the CO2 emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, this would allow countries to continue using them.

“It is inevitable that fossil fuel use will decline. The rate at which this happens will rely on how rapidly we can transition in low-carbon alternatives while maintaining energy security, affordability, and accessibility, he said at a gathering on the fringes of the UN climate conference in Bonn.

The admission of the need to phase out fossil fuels is a good starting step, according to Alden Meyer, senior associate at the climate think tank E3G, but al-Jaber needs to understand the rate at which that needs to happen.

In order to achieve such emissions reductions, “he needs to commit to reaching agreement at COP28 on a plan for how to deliver those reductions,” Meyer told Reuters.

Al-Jaber’s business, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC, approved plans in November to advance the expansion of its five million barrel per day oil production capacity from a previous target of 2030 to 2027 in order to meet the growing global energy demand.

In a letter sent last month, more than 100 members of Congress and the European Parliament encouraged U.S. President Joe Biden and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to put pressure on the UAE government to remove al-Jaber from his position as COP, arguing that his dual role could harm negotiations.

Having a CEO lead COP for the first time in the history of the climate summits and moving away from a solely political process, according to COP28 Director General Majid Al Suwaidi, will assist produce outcomes from the December meeting.

Al-Jaber pressed for more development at the UN climate conference, which is considered as a midway test for how ambitious international climate discussions will take form at COP28 in December, at a reception given by the UAE on Thursday in Bonn.

Without a definite agenda in place when the conference began on Monday, there was some scepticism that the 10-day gathering would produce a precise schedule for Dubai.

The more progress we make in Bonn, the more likely it is that we will succeed in December, as we have discovered from previous experience, al-Jaber remarked.

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