Oil CEO says blaming the energy industry for the climate crisis ‘like blaming farmers for obesity’


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —The chief executive of UAE-based energy firm Crescent Petroleum on Tuesday claimed that blaming the oil and gas industry for the climate crisis “is like blaming farmers for obesity.”

His comments come at the mid-point of the U.N.’s biggest and most important annual climate conference, with many at the COP28 talks in Dubai calling for heads of state from nearly 200 countries to agree to a fossil fuel phase out.

The burning of coal, oil and gas is by far the largest contributor to climate change, accounting for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Blaming the producers of oil and gas for climate change is like blaming farmers for obesity. It’s our societal consumption that is the issue,” Crescent Petroleum CEO Majid Jafar told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Tuesday.

“Now, we will still need oil and gas throughout the transition and there is no scenario, even the most ambitious scenario, that does not include that.”

Majid Jafar, chief executive officer of Crescent Petroleum Co., right, gives Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) and president of COP28, center, a scarf in the colours of the United Arab Emirates national flag during the Summit on Methane and Other Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases on day three of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Among a flurry of pledges in the first few days of COP28 was a commitment by some 50 oil and gas companies to cut methane emissions from their own operations by 2030.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that the announcement was “a step in the right direction” for Big Oil and showed that the fossil fuel industry was “finally starting to wake up.” However, he said the promises made “clearly fall short of what is required.”

Asked about Guterres’ comments, Jafar said he believed oil and gas would continue to play a major role in the transition to cleaner energy technologies.

“So, with all respect for that viewpoint, perhaps he should start with the U.N. itself. Maybe he should have traveled here in a wooden boat, with sails, rowing when the wind died down,” he said.

“Maybe he should move the U.N. staff to upstate New York to a forest somewhere where they can grow their own food, without fertilizers. He has to take away all their smartphones, they can’t use email, they can use maybe carrier pigeon for U.N. communications.”

IEA warning to Big Oil

Jafar said he believed it was imperative to produce oil and gas in a “cleaner” way but insisted that countries across the globe will continue to rely on fossil fuel use.

“We’re actually failing on all three legs of the so-called energy trilemma: sustainability, affordability and availability. We have got to keep that in mind,” he said.

Big Oil’s presence at the U.N. climate talks has long been a source of contention, with many sharply critical of the scale of access that fossil fuel lobbyists appear to have each year.

Others, including former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, believe that the participation of energy giants should be welcomed at events such as COP28.

The International Energy Agency said late last month that the fossil fuel industry faces a “moment of truth” about their role in the global energy system and the climate crisis.

“With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible,” the IEA’s Birol said on Nov. 23.

“The industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals,” he added.

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