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Climate movement in turmoil over COP28 president’s statement

He is also said to have indicated that phasing out fossil fuels would not enable sustainable development unless one wanted to return the world to the Stone Age.

Yesterday it looked like a fragment from some film at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Moments after The Guardian published an article about statements by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber regarding phasing out fossil fuels, the climate movement was in turmoil.

Across the board of media, climate activists, civil society organizations and negotiating delegations, there was one prominent topic of discussion. According to The Guardian, Al Jaber said during a live online meeting on November 21 that there is no scientific basis for phasing out fossil fuels. According to him, this is not necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Controversy over COP28 President's Statements
President of COP Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. COP28UAE

He is also said to have indicated that phasing out fossil fuels would not enable sustainable development unless one wanted to return the world to the Stone Age.

In January 2023, Al Jaber was appointed as COP28 president by the UAE. A storm of criticism erupted almost immediately from climate activists. They warned that Al Jaber’s appointment could undermine this year’s climate conference. Al Jaber is an oil magnate and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), the UAE’s state oil company.

The criticism is placed against the background of the 1.5 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement. Scientific research shows that fossil fuels must be reduced rapidly to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Al Jaber called a press conference within record time. According to Al Jaber, his statement was taken out of context and received maximum media attention. “Let me make it clear what my position is regarding science. I have said time and time again that limiting and phasing out fossil fuels is inevitable. In fact, it is essential that this happens. However, the transition must be orderly, fair and responsible,” he said.

He continued by stating that there are repeated attempts to undermine the COP 28 presidency. Jim Skea, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was also present at the press conference. He said he had held several meetings with Al Jaber on climate science. “Dr. Sultan has paid attention to the science as we discussed it, and I think he fully understands it,” Skea said.

This story was published as part of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship


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Stefanie Lauchman

Stefanie Lauchman is a passionate women’s rights activist & journalist who was born and raised in Suriname. She is also the communications manager for the Mulokot Foundation which focuses on ensuring the rights of the Wayana Indigenous People. Furthermore, she is the brand ambassador and educator at the Practitioner for Communication, Counseling and Coaching (PCCC), an organization which focuses on growth and personal development of girls and young women. As a journalist, she is specialized in climate matters, Indigenous livelihoods and women’s rights.
With climate change being one of the greatest threats to the human rights of especially vulnerable and underprivileged communities, Stefanie developed a keen interest in climate stories. A bubbly ambivert, she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending quality time with loved ones and has a deep love for music.

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