Where do we go from here?

It’s fair to say it hasn’t been the best week in PR terms for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

Leading the poor press was the splash by the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the president of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, had claimed there is “no science” indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C.

According to the report, Al Jaber also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves”.

Al Jaber made the comments in responses to questions from Mary Robinson, the chair of the Elders group and a former UN special envoy for climate change, during a live online event on 21 November. 

As well as running Cop28 in Dubai, Al Jaber is also the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, Adnoc.

Climate scientists and environmental advocates including former Vice President Al Gore were quick to condemn al-Jaber’s remarks. “He should not be taken seriously. He’s protecting his profits and placing them in a higher priority than the survival of the human civilisation,” Gore told Reuters.

His remarks also seemingly put him at odds with the United Nations and its secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, who subsequently told COP28 delegates: “The science is clear: The 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce, not abate. Phase out, with a clear timeframe.”

Speaking at a news conference at the COP28 conference earlier this week, Al-Jaber said he was “quite surprised” at the criticism, which he blasted as “constant and repeated attempts to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency, and the attempts to undermine the message we keep repeating, that we respect the science”.

Whose side do you take in all of this? In a way, it doesn’t matter, as there is some real progress being made at this year’s summit which will have a lasting impact on the way we approach climate risks in years to come. Let’s try and move beyond personalities and what they did (or didn’t) say and try and stay focused on the issues- of which more to come via www.emergingrisks.co.uk next week.

Marcus Alcock

Editor, Emerging Risks

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