The leader of the COP28 climate summit has made alarming comments regarding the need to phase out fossil fuels to limit global warming.
Sultan Al Jaber claimed there is “no science” behind the need to phase out fossil fuels in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, despite direct evidence to the contrary.
Scientists have demonstrated that fossil fuels must be cut to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, which was agreed in the Paris climate agreement.
Al Jaber made the remarks during the She Changes Climate panel event on November 21, in which he also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves”.
His comments, particularly given his position in the worldwide climate talks taking place currently, have seriously alarmed scientists and climate change activists.
His words are also at odds with with the position of the United Nations, which organises the yearly summit, and its general, António Guterres.
Al Jabar made the comments while speaking with Mary Robinson, the chair of the Elders group and a former UN special envoy for climate change, during a live online event on November 21.
As well as running COP28 in Dubai, Al Jaber is also the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, known as Adnoc.
Robsinson took issue with his heading up of the state-run oil firm, saying to Al Jabar said: “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone … and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel.
“That is the one decision that COP28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of Adnoc, you could actually take it with more credibility.”
Al Jaber gave an ill-tempered response: “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation.
“There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”
Al Jaber continued: “Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, said: “This is an extraordinary, revealing, worrying and belligerent exchange. ‘Sending us back to caves’ is the oldest of fossil fuel industry tropes: it’s verging on climate denial.
“Al Jaber is asking for a 1.5C roadmap – anyone who cares can find that in the International Energy Agency’s latest net zero emissions scenario, which says there cannot be any new fossil fuel development.
“The science is absolutely clear [and] that absolutely means a phase-out by mid-century, which will enhance the lives of all of humanity.”
Prof Sir David King, the chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group and a former UK chief scientific adviser, said: “It is incredibly concerning and surprising to hear the Cop28 president defend the use of fossil fuels.
“It is undeniable that to limit global warming to 1.5C we must all rapidly reduce carbon emissions and phase-out the use of fossil fuels by 2035 at the latest. The alternative is an unmanageable future for humanity.”
Dr Friederike Otto, of Imperial College London, UK, said: “The science of climate change has been clear for decades: we need to stop burning fossil fuels.
“A failure to phase out fossil fuels at COP28 will put several million more vulnerable people in the firing line of climate change. This would be a terrible legacy for COP28.”