European environmentalists have lashed out at COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber over his questioning whether stopping the use of fossil fuels would fundamentally help tackle climate change at the gathering of 170 world leaders in Dubai, UAE.
The activists’ ire comes after previous comments made by Al Jaber, who is also CEO of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (ADFEC), regarding the phase-out of fossil fuels emerged online.
At the climate-change gathering in Dubai, he refuted the idea that fossil fuel use had to be abandoned to achieve environmental targets.
“There is no science out there … that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve [the 1.5-degree target],” Al Jaber said at a digital event in the city.
His statement regarding fossil fuel has sparked anger worldwide, with European climate activists expressing outrage at Al Jaber’s position.
“When key people question the scientific consensus, it makes a mockery of the entire negotiation process,” the German youth group Fridays for Future campaigner Luisa Neubauer said.
She added that “every schoolchild can understand” the need for the phase-out of fossil fuels and that the Arab leader’s comments were “ridiculous”, claiming they endangered the integrity of COP28.
Romain Ioualalen, a French activist at Oil Change International, accused Al Jaber of being “science-denying” with his claims at the online event.
Ioualalen added that the comments “raise deep concerns about the presidency’s capacity to lead the UN climate talks”.
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— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) November 29, 2023
Sweden’s climate minister Romina Pourmokhtari said: “Phasing out fossil fuels is the most important thing we can do to stop global warming,” describing Al Jaber as being “not right” in what he had claimed.
She did add that it was now important to get “the biggest emitters and fossil-fuel countries” involved in climate-change discussions, adding that Al Jaber’s comments had at least got people talking.
A spokesman for the COP28 president railed at the criticisms, claiming that ongoing reporting was “just another attempt to undermine the presidency’s agenda”.
“The COP president is clear that phasing down and out of fossil fuels is inevitable and that we must keep 1.5C within reach,” the spokesman added, arguing that Al Jaber’s team were “excited” by the progress made so far.
“Attempts to undermine this will not soften our resolve.”
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— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) November 27, 2023