UAE’s al Jaber says Cop28 will fast-track phase down of fossil fuels

The Cop28 chief has also urged the oil and gas industry to “step up its game” and scale up renewables investment.

The climate summit in Dubai will move more quickly towards an energy transition that “phases down the use of fossil fuels,” according to the United Arab Emirates’ Cop28, according to its president-designate Sultan al Jaber.

The comments show a small change in al Jaber’s thinking from his earlier speech that established the agenda, in which he supported the “phase out of fossil fuel emissions” and outlined a significant role for carbon capture and storage technology.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, called on nations to phase out fossil fuels and “to leave oil, gas and coal in the ground where they belong” last month. His new rhetoric moves him closer to Guterres.

Al Jaber hasn’t yet demanded a “phase out” or specified how quickly the phase down should occur, though. His words are keenly scrutinised since the Cop host, who puts together the draught texts that nations are requested to adopt, plays a significant role in determining the course of discussions.

Conflict of words

To the dismay of Pacific island states and several rich countries, the later version of the commitment—backed by India and China—won out in the end.

The Cop28 president-designate urged the oil and gas business to “step up its game” and invest more money in clean energy in separate remarks to the OPEC oil producing nations meeting in Vienna on Thursday.

He declared, “The energy system of the future cannot and will not construct itself.”

In a statement last month, Guterres referred to the present level of investment in renewable energies as “immoral” and urged fossil fuel firms to spend their record windfall from high oil and gas prices into these sources of energy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that fewer than 5% of oil and gas corporations’ spending went towards carbon capture and clean electricity. While restarting exploration for new oil and gas, majors like Shell and BP have cut back plans to increase spending for renewable energy.

Renewable energy vs fossil fuels

CEO of Shell Wael Sawan reiterated the firm’s dedication to fossil fuels on Thursday. Cutting oil and gas output, he claimed to the BBC, would be “dangerous and irresponsible,” since it would cause the cost of living crisis to “shoot up again.”

A few hours later, al Jaber told the gathering of nations that produce oil that “the phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable, in fact essential.” He did, however, add that “it cannot be irresponsible” and that “the speed of the transition will be driven by how quickly we phase up zero-carbon alternatives.”

Al Jaber serves as the chairman of Masdar and the CEO of Adnoc, the government-owned oil and gas firm of the United Arab Emirates.

One of the major commitments the Cop28 team is eager to fulfil in Dubai is the tripling of the world’s renewable energy production by the year 2030. The European Union, the United States, Chile, Colombia, and representatives of tiny island states are all in favour of the promise. There has not been much resistance to the suggestion.

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