Pressure is mounting on the UAE oil boss running international climate negotiations this year to convince his critics he has a suitably ambitious plan, as diplomats meet in Germany this week for preparatory talks.
The incoming president of the annual COP climate talks, Sultan Al Jaber, who is chief executive of state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and founding chief executive of its renewable energy company Masdar, has been accused of a conflict of interest and for being too lenient on fossil fuels.
At a meeting last month, he called for a phase-out of “fossil fuel emissions”, leaving the door open to continued fossil fuel use alongside expensive and sometimes risky technology to capture the carbon pollution.
He is also under pressure during his one-day appearance at the ten-day summit in Bonn – starting today and a critical milestone in the run-up to COP28 in Dubai in December – to “lay out the contours of a deal” for Dubai.
Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres recently said on her podcast she was concerned he is “not clear what his priorities are going to be”.
However, Mr Al Jaber was also recently commended for supporting the idea of a global renewable energy target, and has been publicly backed for the COP role by climate diplomats including the US’s John Kerry and the EU’s Frans Timmermans, as well as British Foreign Office minister Zac Goldsmith.
Laurence Tubiana, a former French negotiator, said ramping up renewables was important but “not enough”.
“Now more than ever it is critical to simultaneously recognise that the fossil era is ending,” said Ms Tubiana, now the CEO of the European Climate Foundation.
Mr Al Jaber’s team is “uniquely placed to do so, but the world needs to understand the plan. The time for that is now”.
Contentious fossil fuel language
Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, said to “regain the world’s confidence ahead of COP28”, countries must press on with a plan to “phase out fossil fuels” – the primary cause of climate change.
That idea is so contentious and unpopular with economies heavily reliant on fossil fuel production that it has so far failed to make it into any global treaties, often the subject of eleventh-hour wrangling at past COP summits.
The United Nations’ climate chief Simon Stiell said in an interview with AP on Monday that the world must phase out fossil fuels to cut global warming, but admitted the idea might not make it onto the agenda of COP28.
More than 130 lawmakers from the European Union and the United States last month wrote to the United Nations calling for the removal of Mr Al Jaber as president of this year’s COP28 climate talks.
But recently writing in support of Mr Al Jaber’s role, media mogul and climate philanthropist Mike Bloomberg said ousting him would achieve nothing, and the scale of the climate crisis “requires all hands on deck”.
Rachel Kyte, dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, said if Mr Al Jaber does not “lay out the contours of a Dubai deal” he won’t be able to “bend the conversation away from his fitness for office”.
Sky News has contacted the COP28 team with a request to comment.
It has previously said Mr Al Jaber’s experience “uniquely positions him to be able to convene both the public and private sector to bring pragmatic solutions to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement”.
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