COP28 president accused of climate denialism after shocking fossil fuel comments
Dubai, UAE - COP28 president Sultan Al-Jaber has questioned the scientific consensus that a phase-out of fossil fuels is necessary to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a new report.
The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting said Sunday that Al-Jaber had said in a video link with UN representatives in November, among other things, that there was "no science" to prove that it is necessary to phase out fossil fuels in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times.
Al-Jaber is controversial as the host of the climate conference because he is also the head of the UAE's state oil company.
During the video conference, Al-Jaber reportedly also claimed that development without the use of fossil energy was not possible "if you don't want to catapult the world into the Stone Age."
At the start of the COP28 conference, UN Secretary General António Guterres, however, had said: "The science is clear. The 1.5 degree target is only possible if we finally stop burning fossil fuels."
When asked by the Guardian, the COP28 presidency did not deny the statements, but went on to say that Al-Jaber had referred to the fact that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also assumes in its scenarios that fossil fuels will continue to play a role in the energy system of the future – albeit a smaller one.
Scientists say there is no option but to phase out fossil fuels
Leading climate researcher Friederike Otto from Imperial College London told the Guardian: "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 millions more vulnerable people in the firing line of climate change. This would be a terrible legacy for COP28."
Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare went further and called the comments "verging on climate denial."
The global phase-out of coal, oil, and gas is one of the most contentious issues at the UN's climate summit in Dubai.
The Emirates and several other countries want to continue to rely on fossil fuels and use technologies such as CO2 storage or capture.
However, experts consider these to be scientifically controversial, very expensive and say they cannot be used on a larger scale in a timely manner.
Cover photo: REUTERS