The United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich Gulf nation that is hosting the next UN climate summit, is “running towards” a renewable energy future, the president of the summit has said.
“The UAE has always made progress by getting ahead of the future,” said Sultan Al Jaber, who will oversee the Cop28 conference beginning this November, at an international meeting in Dubai on Tuesday. “We believe that gamechanging solutions can be achieved if the collective political will is there. It certainly is from the UAE. We in the UAE are not shying away from the energy transition. We are running towards it.”
Al Jaber is also chief executive of the UAE’s national oil company, Adnoc, which has brought him under heavy fire from climate activists. Many prominent climate campaigning groups, and politicians including several US lawmakers, have called for him to step down from the oil company role.
But Al Jaber told the World Government Summit, an annual meeting organised by the UAE in Dubai, that the country was working to “transform entire industrial systems that still run on the energies of the first Industrial Revolution”.
He set out the case for the UAE’s presidency of the Cop28 summit, the fortnight-long meeting of heads of state and government that will begin on 30 November. At the conference, governments will be expected to report on how much progress they have made on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the commitments of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.
This “global stocktake” is expected to show that far too little has been done to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the key aspiration set at Paris, and which scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst ravages of climate breakdown.
Al Jaber said on Tuesday: “We don’t need to wait for the stocktake to find out what it will say. We already know that we are way off track. The world is playing catch-up when it comes to holding global temperatures down to 1.5C.”
He called for much stronger action around the world. “We need to triple renewable energy capacity, double hydrogen production, expand nuclear power, improve battery storage and, if we are serious about capturing emissions, scale up carbon capture technologies. All while minimising the carbon intensity of the energy we use today,” he said.
Investors must come forward with “lots of capital” to achieve these goals, Al Jaber said. “We need to ramp up investment across every area of decarbonisation and we should view these investments as an opportunity, not a burden,” he said. “In fact, economists estimate that decarbonising industry, the energy sector, power generation, transportation and food systems could create an additional $12tn in economic value by 2030.”
In an implicit defence of his dual role, he added: “We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage the energy industry in a technological revolution that gets us to a climate-positive future. And yes, it is in our common interest to have the energy industry working hand in hand, and alongside everyone on the solutions that the world needs. That is just logical and makes sense.”
Adnoc has benefited from the global oil and gas bonanza of the past year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company’s drilling subsidiary, Adnoc Drilling, reported profits this week up by a third on last year.
The company plans an expansion of its oil and gas production, which climate campaigners said ran counter to the Cop28 goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Marta Schaaf, the director of climate, economic and social justice at Amnesty International, said: “Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive of Adnoc, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, plans to increase the group’s production of fossil fuels – this is entirely incompatible with his role as president designate of Cop28. [He] cannot be an honest broker for climate talks when the company he leads is planning to cause more climate damage.”