BONN, Germany (AP) — The United Arab Emirates official has chosen to lead the upcoming global climate summit and pledged on Thursday to listen to young people demanding a seat at the table when negotiators meet in the Gulf country this fall, but offered no response to criticism of its ties to fossil fuel interests.
In his first appearance at a UN climate meeting this year, UAE Minister of Industry Sultan al-Jaber said he wanted the COP28 summit in Dubai to be “inclusive and produce a “breakthrough result” for international efforts to combat climate change. change.
“I am determined to make your participation a success,” he said in a brief speech to delegates from youth activist groups demanding that leaders take drastic action on global warming.
Al-Jaber’s comments in Bonn, Germany, drew a wary response from his audience.
“Many people, including children and young people around the world, are rightly concerned about your ties to the fossil fuel industry and therefore the integrity of the (UN talks)” , Clara von Glasow of the Youth Climate Movement, an international network of more than 1,000 campaign groups, told al-Jaber. “It’s up to you to prove them wrong and show that you really mean it.”
“You have a unique opportunity, a huge chance to show leadership,” she said. “You can champion change and make sure we phase out fossil fuels immediately.”
Al-Jaber, who is also chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s national oil company, resisted calling for an end to fossil fuels.
Speaking later Thursday at a diplomatic reception, al-Jaber called for “a fair and balanced energy transition that leaves no one behind”.
He said the goal should be a “relentless fossil fuel free” global energy system. The term reduced refers to actions taken to reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, an idea that experts say is technically difficult and very costly. .
“There is no fossil fuel without emissions,” said Hanna Fekete of the NewClimate think tank. “It is always more efficient to produce renewable energy and use it directly.”
Fekete released a report with the Climate Action Tracker group on Thursday showing that many major oil and gas producers, including the United Arab Emirates and the United States, are currently ramping up production.
“The sector is acting like there’s a gold rush, not a climate crisis,” the authors warned.
This goes against countries’ promise at a 2015 summit in Paris to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Scientists say that to achieve this goal, carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 and reach “net zero” by mid-century.
Much of the task of convincing countries to make painful but necessary emission cuts will fall to al-Jaber during the November 30-December 30 meeting. 12 talks, while the negotiators must approve the first overall assessment of what has been done since Paris and the gaps that remain to be filled. Preliminary talks in which al-Jaber participated in Bonn, Germany, have so far not even resulted in an agreement on a formal agenda.
Outside the site, bus stops were lined with posters highlighting al-Jaber’s ties to the oil industry. Inside, activists put up a huge banner that read “End Fossil Fuels.”
Alden Meyer, a long-time watcher of climate talks now with Brussels-based E3G group, said former summit chairs were more successful when they set aside their own national interests to find deals acceptable to the few. 200 countries participating in the discussions.
“There is a real question whether Dr al-Jaber wants to do this, is able to do this and is authorized by the leadership of the United Arab Emirates to do this,” Meyer said. “He needs to decouple from the UAE as an oil and gas producer who wants to increase production if he wants to have a successful COP.
Mohamed Adow, who heads the Nairobi-based group Power Shift Africa, said it was in the UAE’s interest to curb global warming, something al-Jaber himself acknowledged.
“If we keep burning fossil fuels, their people and people in many other countries are cooked,” he said, adding that the UAE has a lot to gain from a smooth transition to clean energy. such as wind and solar, which they both have in sufficient quantity.
“What we need is for the President of COP28 to stop acting like the CEO of an oil company only caring about the next quarter’s profit margin and instead act like a responsible leader,” Adow said. .