The President of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates, has urged a cautious approach to swiftly discarding current energy sources in pursuit of climate goals.
During the opening session of the Climate Week in the Middle East and North Africa in Riyadh, Al Jaber stated, “We cannot dismantle the current energy system today before we build the energy system of tomorrow. It is simply impractical or impossible.”
Al Jaber, who also leads the government-owned renewable energy firm “Masdar” and the UAE’s national oil company “ADNOC,” and serves as the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, stressed the need to distinguish between facts and fantasies, as well as to avoid division.
The choice of the UAE to host the climate event was met with criticism from environmental advocacy groups, who warned that leadership from an oil-producing nation in climate discussions could hinder progress in combating global warming. Similarly, the appointment of the CEO of ADNOC as the president of COP-28 raised concerns.
However, Al Jaber garnered support from key players in the climate conference, including U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, especially after he affirmed that “gradually reducing fossil fuels is unavoidable.”
Oil-producing nations have called for continued investment in fossil fuels to ensure energy security, even as they look to eventually transition away from traditional energy sources.
Organizers of the Riyadh conference stated on Sunday that the talks in the Saudi capital aim to “highlight challenges and solutions in the region most susceptible to climate change effects.” They noted that the region is already experiencing rising temperatures and water scarcity, with more than 60% of the population having limited access to potable water, if any, and warned of further severe droughts due to temperature increases.
Simultaneously, the United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, emphasized that the Middle East and North Africa region stands at a “crossroads.” He added that the region not only faces the devastating impacts of climate change but also confronts the challenge of transitioning its economies to thrive in a world with a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise.
As climate discussions unfold in Riyadh, the pragmatic approach advocated by President Al Jaber may be crucial in fostering cooperation and progress toward global climate goals while acknowledging the complexities faced by nations with strong ties to fossil fuel industries.