Climate needs an ally like Al Jaber. Environmentalists should give him a chance.
When the UN announced that the UAE would host its upcoming COP28 climate conference in November, a number of environmentalists scoffed. After all, a climate summit in an oil state is almost unheard of.
When the UAE appointed Sultan Al Jaber, who heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as the president of the climate talks, the scoffing only grew louder.
However, scores of activists who have expressed doubt over Al Jaber’s recent appointment should give him a chance as he is precisely the kind of ally the climate movement is currently in dire need of.
During a recent visit to India, Al Jaber underscored the gravity of the obstacles ahead. He highlighted the Emirates’ interest in helping the South Asian country achieve its clean energy goals, in addition to calling for more investment in decarbonisation technology and stressing the importance of an all-of-society approach that involves every sector.
Al Jaber’s critics usually tend to ignore the fact that the world will still need oil and gas for some time. The fight against climate change doesn’t demand an immediate end to oil and gas production. Instead, it requires the development of sufficient clean power to phase out the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible.
Although Al Jaber holds a financial interest in oil production, it isn’t right to dodge the role he also plays in the clean-energy industry. He is the founding CEO and current chair of UAE’s clean energy powerhouse Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company.
Masdar, since its launch in 2006, has helped dozens of countries achieve their clean energy objectives. It plans to generate 100 gigawatts of renewable power by 2030, a goal that goes far beyond those set by some larger European countries.
Most global leaders have expressed support towards the UN’s decision to host COP28 in Dubai and Sultan Al Jaber’s appointment. But scepticism might compel Al Jaber to put in additional efforts for the event.
As he prepares for November’s summit, Al Jaber can address some of the public scepticism about his appointment by targeting one of the largest obstacles against major climate progress: coal-fired power plants.