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Fossil fuel phase-down ‘inevitable’ says Al Jaber

Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Cop28 president-designate, opened trading on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday Wam
Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Cop28 president-designate, opened trading on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday
  • Cop28 chief addresses UN in New York
  • World needs to be ‘brutally honest’
  • UN head cites ‘naked greed’ of oil interests

Cop28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber this week implored world leaders to cut reliance on fossil fuels to meet carbon reduction targets. 

Addressing the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York, Al Jaber – who is also group chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company – urged nations to fast track the transition to a low carbon economy. 

“The phase-down of fossil fuels is essential. It is in fact inevitable,” he said. “And it must go hand-in-hand with a rapid phase-up of zero carbon alternatives.” 

He called for a “massive expansion of renewable energy”, tripling global capacity to 11TW (terawatts) by 2030. And domestic and commercial energy efficiency improvements need to be rolled out faster, as they are “the simplest, cheapest and fastest way to dial down emissions”.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres told the summit that time is running out to meet the climate change mitigation goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, mainly due to the “naked greed” of fossil fuel interests. 

“The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening – but we are decades behind,” Guterres said. “We must make up for time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.”

However, Al Jaber warned that the world needs to be “brutally honest about what it will take to transition heavy-emitting sectors” such as chemicals, steel and cement, as they cannot run on renewables alone. 

“Rapidly and comprehensively decarbonising the energies we use today” and developing the hydrogen value chain should go some way towards reshaping global energy production, distribution and use, he added. 

Al Jaber has said previously he wants the oil and gas industry to eliminate methane emissions by 2030 and align with net zero ambitions by or before 2050. 

The UN’s global climate stocktake – the first comprehensive review of countries’ progress on cutting emissions since the Paris Agreement – was published earlier this month

The report warned that progress made to date has been “inadequate” and the world is “not on track” to meet the pledges set out eight years ago to keep global warming to a maximum 1.5°C temperature rise.

“We know the size of the problem,” Al Jaber told the summit. “The numbers are straightforward: 22 gigatons. That’s the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we need to cut in the next seven years to keep 1.5 degrees within reach. We are not powerless.”