Sultan Al Jaber, who serves as the special envoy for climate change for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and as CEO of the oil company ADNOC, recently spoke at a graduation ceremony at the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence. He emphasized the need for a transition in the energy sector to benefit both the planet and the economy. Al Jaber stated, "We need to hold back the global rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, without slowing economic growth. We need to drive an inclusive energy transition that leaves no one behind, especially in the Global South. We need to make our planet wealthier and healthier at the same time."
Al Jaber has been appointed as the president of COP28, a global forum against climate change, which has faced criticism from environmental activists who believe that his appointment threatens the legitimacy of the forum. However, Al Jaber is a veteran of COP meetings and the head of a leading renewable energy company, which has been praised by US climate envoy John Kerry.
On Monday, France's economy minister Bruno Le Maire visited Abu Dhabi and urged delegates to support Al Jaber and focus on "concrete decisions". He said, "The challenge of COP28 is not to know who is in charge of the COP. The key challenge of the COP28 is the results, the concrete decisions." Le Maire also visited Qatar during his trip to the Gulf region and stated that he had been reassured by Al Jaber and the UAE government regarding their approach to the climate conference. He added, "I think all the participants to the COP28 should try to support the efforts of the presidency of COP28 so that at the end of COP28 the single winner will be our planet."
The last UN climate talks, which took place in Egypt in November, resulted in a landmark deal to establish a "loss and damage" fund to help cover the costs faced by developing countries from climate-linked natural disasters and impacts such as rising sea levels. However, many observers were disappointed with the lack of progress made in reducing planet-heating emissions from fossil fuels. The UAE, one of the world's largest oil producers, argues that crude oil remains crucial to the global economy and is needed to finance the energy transition.
The Gulf monarchy is advocating for the benefits of carbon capture, which involves removing carbon dioxide as fuel is burned or from the air. It is also investing billions of dollars to develop enough renewable energy to meet half of its energy needs by 2050, with a target of achieving net-zero domestic carbon emissions, which do not include pollution from exported oil.