The “phase out” of oil and gas has been demanded by a top minister from the nation hosting the upcoming Paris climate conference. At previous climate talks, governments were unable to agree on this wording, and at the Cop28 summit in Dubai in November, this term is anticipated to cause division among nations. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the environment minister for the UAE, stated at the Munich Security Conference: “We need the oil and gas sector to be with us. They must change their business practices, and they must reduce their carbon footprint. Then, we must phase out oil and gas in a fair manner.
A Cop battle line
The “phase down” of coal was agreed upon by all states during the Cop26 climate conference in 2021. In a Cop ruling, a fossil fuel has never before been referenced. A large coalition of countries, including India, wealthy countries, and fragile islands, campaigned for an agreement to phase out fossil fuels, which would include oil, gas, and coal, during the negotiations in Egypt the following year. However, a small number of oil and gas companies objected to such provision, the hosts Egypt left it out of the final document, and the coalition promoting it ultimately opted not to obstruct the deal over the matter. At Cop28, the conflict is expected to continue. Even though hosts are meant to be impartial, they have a lot of influence over which government requests are included in the draft rulings made by the Police.
The UAE kept quiet about the fossil fuel issue at Cop27. Saudi Arabia, whose senior negotiator Albara Tawfiq told the assembly that the UN climate treaty “has to address emissions and not the origins of the emissions,” spearheaded the opposition to criticism of fossil fuels. At the negotiations, Saudi Arabia formally spoke on behalf of the Arab Group, a confederation of 22 countries from the Middle East and North Africa, including the United Arab Emirates. Uncertainty exists on how much each group member supports the Saudi stance. Climate Home was informed in December by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Center, that Cop28 “could force them to break cover.”
As a result of Sultan al-Jaber, the CEO of the state oil corporation Adnoc, being appointed as its leader, the UAE’s hosting of this year’s climate talks has received harsh criticism. Campaigners claimed that his selection conveyed the incorrect message and that the global response to the global warming catastrophe was being taken over by the fossil fuel sector. In response to the criticism, minister Almheiri stated that al-Jaber was appointed to Adnoc in order to transform the organization and lead it through the energy transition. We will always export energy, but the kind of energy we export is already changing and will continue to do so in the future, according to her.
Experts around table
At the Munich Security Conference, Sultan al-Jaber spoke on a panel with US Climate Envoy John Kerry. The UAE’s Cop28 president stated that the UAE would focus on promoting a “inclusive” climate agenda that does not exclude fossil fuel stakeholders. “When you talk about energy transformation, please involve energy specialists,” al-Jaber remarked. “Don’t expect to come up with solutions without the specialists present.”
Al-Jaber was eager to promote the UAE’s push for renewable energy, which is taking place under his watch. Al-Jaber is the chairman of Masdar, the UAE’s renewable energy company, in addition to his Cop28 and fossil fuel jobs. The UAE has some of the world’s cheapest solar power due to its abundance of sunshine. The government plans to construct more than 9GW of solar capacity by 2030, more than triple present levels. The UAE was the first in the area to set a net zero objective for 2050. Moreover, at Cop27, it was the first to announce absolute emission cuts rather than from a fictitious business-as-usual baseline.
Pragmatism and balance
Al-Jaber also reaffirmed the UAE’s position on the necessity of ongoing investment in oil and gas in the near future in a speech that was peppered with frequent calls for “pragmatism” and “balance.” Changes frequently require some time. Any shift that is effective is based on a rational, rather than an intuitive, road map, he said the Munich audience. A varied energy mix strategy is required. The oil and gas corporation Adnoc, which is led by al-Jaber, intends to increase investment by $150 billion over the following five years. Also, the money will hasten a rise in the capacity for oil and gas production. Further investments in fossil fuels are incompatible with keeping global warming to 1.5C, the International Energy Agency stated in 2021.