Reduction of fossil fuel use is inevitable: UAE COP28 chief

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The head of the upcoming COP28 climate summit, who also is the chief executive of the UAE’s national oil company, acknowledged Thursday that a reduction in the use of fossil fuels is inescapable.

“The phase down of fossil fuels is inevitable,” Sultan al-Jaber said on the sidelines of technical climate talks six months ahead of the summit.

“The speed at which this happens depends on how quickly we can phase up zero carbon alternatives, while ensuring energy security, accessibility and affordability,” added Al Jaber, who runs the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

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Al-Jaber defended a COP28 roadmap that includes a “global goal to triple renewable energy, double energy efficiency, and double clean hydrogen, all by 2030.”

Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, an African climate and energy think tank, told AFP that al-Jaber is right to acknowledge the inevitability of the phaseout of fossil fuels.

“Like a drug addict, we need to kick the habit if we’re going to heal and start getting better,” he said.

After coming close to getting a COP resolution to phase out fossil fuels in Glasgow in 2021, and again in Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2022, Adow said this was the year to get it done.

“Getting agreement on a total phaseout of all fossil fuels is important to set the direction of travel and it then allows the world to work out exactly the speed and scale of that phaseout,” said Adow.

He said a managed phaseout as opposed to a chaotic end to fossil fuel use would be good news for oil and gas exporters like the UAE.

“The clean energy wave is coming, countries can either surf the wave or get washed away by it,” Adow said.

On Wednesday, al-Jaber signed a statement with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen calling for transitioning away from fossil fuels except when carbon capture systems are in place, hinting at a possible compromise in the coming months between different camps in the negotiations.

“We must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions, while phasing up viable, affordable zero carbon alternatives,” al-Jaber said at an event in Germany last month.

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