DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates’ pick to lead the upcoming COP28 climate talks in Dubai called on the world Tuesday to “fight climate change, not each other,” directly addressing the anger activists have felt over his selection.
Sultan al-Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., also described the upcoming United Nations negotiations as an “unprecedented opportunity to engage the energy industry in a technological revolution.”
His speech at the World Government Summit in Dubai sought to present his nominated presidency as a bridge between oil companies and climate activists long suspicious of the industry’s influence on efforts to limit carbon emissions. Whether it will, however, remains in question.
“We need a major course correction,” al-Jaber said.
However, he added: “The strategies we pursue must leave no one behind. The policies we adopt must be pro-growth and pro-climate at the same time.”
Al-Jaber, a 49-year-old longtime climate envoy, is a trusted confidant of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He’s been behind billions in investments in renewable energy — and also leads an oil company that pumps some 4 million barrels of crude a day and hopes to expand to 5 million daily.
Activists have equated his nomination to asking “arms dealers to lead peace talks” when authorities announced his nomination in January. However, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and France’s finance minister both have backed his selection by the UAE, a key Mideast ally.
“There are moments in history when humanity comes together to fight a common threat. Let’s prove to ourselves that we can do it once again,” al-Jaber said. “Let’s put our differences aside. Fight climate change, not each other.”
Al-Jaber’s speech, which included portions he previously delivered in January, also acknowledged that “capital is critical to make the loss-and-damage fund real and operational.” That fund, agreed to at the COP27 talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, did not include a means by which to fund them. Al-Jaber’s speech also didn’t offer a suggestion on how to raise the money.
Al-Jaber did, however, call on the world to triple its renewable energy capacity, as well as expand nuclear power, improve battery storage and provide carbon-capture technology. He also drew applause from the largely Emirati audience by defending the OPEC-member nation hosting the climate talks.
“We in the UAE are not shying away from the energy transition,” al-Jaber said. “We are running towards it.”
Each year, the country hosting the U.N. negotiations known as the Conference of the Parties — where COP gets its name — nominates a person to chair the talks. Hosts typically pick a veteran diplomat as the talks can be difficult to steer between competing nations and their interests.
The nominee’s position as “COP president” is confirmed by delegates at the start of the talks, usually without objections. However, activists for weeks have been criticizing his selection.
COP28 will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from Nov. 30 through Dec. 12.
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