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U.A.E. Head of COP28 Tells the Truth: Ending All Fossil Fuel Use Will Send People ‘Back to the Caves’

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber Opening Speech at the UN Climate Change Conference. | #COP28UN Climate Change

London’s The Guardian daily today published a horrified “exclusive” story “revealing” that the chair of COP28, United Arab Emirates Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, has stated publicly that there is “no science” behind the assertion that phasing out fossil fuels will limit the rise in global temperature to the magic number of 1.5°C, and furthermore charged that those advocating such a policy want to send people “back into caves.”

Al Jaber—who also heads the U.A.E.’s state oil company, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as well as the state’s renewable energy company, Masdar—made those statements in an “ill-tempered exchange” with the former UN Special Envoy for Climate Change Mary Robinson, at a “She Changes Climate” event Nov. 21, The Guardian reported. The Guardian’s account of the exchange is actually quite enjoyable:

Robinson: “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone … and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel. That is the one decision that COP28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of Adnoc, you could actually take it with more credibility.”

Al Jaber: “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5°C.… Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves. I don’t think [you] will be able to help solve the climate problem by pointing fingers or contributing to the polarization and the divide that is already happening in the world. Show me the solutions. Stop the pointing of fingers. Stop it.”

The Sultan “is verging on climate denial!” Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, protested to The Guardian. Prof. Sir David King, the chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group and a former U.K. chief scientific adviser, called it “incredibly concerning and surprising to hear the COP28 president defend the use of fossil fuels. It is undeniable that to limit global warming to 1.5°C we must all rapidly reduce carbon emissions and phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2035 at the latest. The alternative is an unmanageable future for humanity.” Dr. Friederike Otto, of Imperial College London, insisted that “the science of climate change has been clear for decades: We need to stop burning fossil fuels.” Besides, poorer countries don’t need fossil fuels to develop.

A spokesperson for COP28 calmly responded to The Guardian: “The IEA and IPCC 1.5°C scenarios clearly state that fossil fuels will have to play a role in the future energy system, albeit a smaller one. The COP president was quoting the science, and leading climate experts.”