UN climate chief praises frowned UAE oil exec-turned-COP28 President
Climate Executive Secretary Stiell says "Dr. Sultan's experience, his knowledge of the industry" and efforts in the oil and gas sector and renewables give him "unique insight".
The UAE oil executive, whose appointment as president of the COP28 climate summit enraged experts, was praised by the UN Climate Executive Secretary Simon Stiell at climate negotiations in Germany.
Stiell claimed to AFP that exec Sultan Al-Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, is experienced in developing renewable energy and is deeply familiar with the UN talks.
The climate summit, aimed at bringing together 200 nations to battle climate change, "is an inclusive one," Stiell said six months before the crucial COP28 summit in Dubai, adding, "One person, one entity, one country doesn't have all of the answers, it requires the input and knowledge of all."
He continued to say that "Dr. Sultan's experience, his knowledge of the industry" and efforts in the oil and gas sector and renewables give him "unique insight".
Green groups and climate experts have called for him to step down, and in May, over 100 lawmakers from the US and the European Union signed an open letter directed to US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requesting them to pressure the UAE to replace Al-Jaber.
Controversy into opportunity
With fossil fuel burning being the largest driver of global warming, his position as an oil executive and especially for the world's largest oil and gas firms seems to contradict the core mission of the UN climate talks.
Al-Jaber has gotten praise from US climate envoy John Kerry and former New York Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg.
However, Stiell used the controversy to call it an "opportunity" to tackle the question of fossil fuels, which are not mentioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
"The science is clear: we need to phase down and phase out all fossil fuels," Stiell said, adding, "We also need to ramp up renewable energy deployment. There are two sides of the equation."
"Whether parties take advantage of that opportunity to explore and to come up with decisions that are aligned with the science, that remains to be seen," he added.
The first-ever Global Stocktake of progress made toward the objectives set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls for keeping global warming at "well below" two degrees Celsius, and 1.5C if possible, will be seen at the COP28 this year.
"The conclusion of the global stocktake is a moment of truth," Stiell said. "We know that we are way off track, that the gap between where we need to be and where we are is massive."
"How do we respond to those truths?"
'There is hope'
The technical talks in Bonn, Germany, launched with a debate on whether the forum's Mitigation Work Programme meant to accelerate emissions reduction will appear on the formal agenda.
"Trying to get close to 200 countries to point in the same direction isn't an easy thing," Stiell responded about the stalemate. "You'll often have agenda items that are held hostage, not because there is anything offensive about it but because some parties believe they have something else to gain later on in the negotiations."
Enthusiasm expressed by oil and gas exporting nations seeking technological solutions to cut down carbon emissions without cutting the use of fossil fuels is already causing a global outrage as well.
"To achieve dramatic reductions in emissions, all technologies and all levers available need to be used," Stiell claimed.
"We're in very difficult times, but there is hope," he said, referring to the fast development of renewable energy, which now attracts more investment yearly.
It is worth noting that the UAE will host the UN-brokered climate talks from Nov. 30 through to Dec. 12.