Sultan al-Jaber defends UAE hosting COP28

Sultan al-Jaber defends UAE hosting COP28
With climate activists and lawmakers all critical of the UAE hosting the COP28 climate conference, Sultan al-Jaber, president of the conference, has come to his country's defence.
2 min read
30 September, 2023
Sultan al-Jaber is the head of one of the world's largest oil firms and president of COP28, a contradiction which has baffled and enraged many climate activists [Getty]

The Emirati president-designate for the upcoming United Nations COP28 climate conference offered a full-throated defense Saturday of his nation hosting the talks, dismissing those “just go on the attack without knowing anything, without knowing who we are.”

The comments by Sultan al-Jaber come after climate activists roundly criticized his appointment as the president-designate of the talks as he serves as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., which seeks to boost its production of carbon-emitting crude oil and natural gas.

Back before a quiet, hometown crowd and an amenable moderator after attending the U.N. General Assembly, al-Jaber pointed to his 20 years of work on renewable energy as a sign he and the Emirates represented the best chance to reach a consensus to address climate change worldwide.

“The world only, for whatever reason, views us as an oil-and-gas nation,” he said. “We have moved beyond oil and gas 20 years ago. We embraced the energy transition 20 years ago.”

He added: “We don’t become passionate or ideological or so emotional. We’re business-oriented. We’re results-driven.”

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Al-Jaber, a 50-year-old longtime climate envoy , is a trusted confidant of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He’s been behind tens of billions of dollars spent or pledged toward renewable energy in this federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula — and also leads an oil company that pumps some 4 million barrels of crude a day and hopes to expand to 5 million daily.

Addressing the world's reliance on crude oil, al-Jaber issued a challenge to the audience listening to him at Dubai's Museum of the Future: Tell him how to immediately stop the use of all fossil fuels.

“Some are promoting the fact that we can just unplug the world from the current energy system and with a flick of a switch, we can just initiate a new energy system,” he said. “That doesn't work. It won't work. … So we need to sober up and be more realistic and more practical.”