10th Dec 2023

The oil-chief boss of COP28 lays out climate summit plan

  • Sultan Al Jaber who leads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is this year's UN climate summit president (Photo: ADSW)
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Ministers and negotiators from 30 countries have met in Brussels to prepare for the crucial COP28 climate talks, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November.

Sultan Al Jaber, who leads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and will host the climate summit, said on Thursday (13 July) that a "phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable."

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In a plan released on the same day by Al Jaber's office, four points were prioritised.

This included fast-tracking the energy transition, slashing emissions before 2030, transforming climate finance, especially for low-income countries and "putting nature and people at the heart of climate action."

He also said oil companies should "attack" emissions made by customers using their products which, in the case of fossil-fuel giants, make up the bulk of their carbon emissions.

"We need to challenge old models that were built for the last century," said Al Jaber. "This plan is guided by a single north star, and that is keeping 1.5 [degrees Celsius] within reach."

Commitments to double energy-efficiency, triple renewable energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts globally, and double hydrogen production to 180m tonnes a year by 2030 will be put to governments, who are expected to reach an agreement in November.

Al Jaber also said he wants to formulate a plan to get the world's biggest oil and gas producers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5C.

The plan was broadly welcomed by experts on Thursday. "[It] sends the right signals about the key elements required for a successful climate summit. [But] while the broad contours are positive, the devil will be in the details," said Harjeet Singh of the Climate Action Network.

Al Jaber's dual role as climate and oil boss has also attracted criticism, with Left MEP Manon Aubry describing it as an "absolute scandal". EU executive vice president Frans Timmermans who also attended the meeting on Thursday and is responsible for the Green Deal, has said in the past not to "vilify" the oil boss ahead of Cop28.

"We need them. They have a lot of assets," he said about the host country, UAE.


Deploying a loss and damage fund to help low-income countries deal with the destructive effects of global warming — agreed on at last year's climate summit — is among the major goals of this year's proceedings.

The other defining element will be the global stocktake, which is the first country-by-country assessment of the progress made towards reducing emissions enough to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It is the first such accounting since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015. In a letter published in the Financial Times on Wednesday, a group of countries led by Canada and Germany called on the UAE to focus on the phaseout of all fossil fuels.

UAE's Al Jaber has emphasised emissions reduction through carbon capture and storage, which would allow oil companies to keep their production high— a method supported by fossil-fuel corporations but criticised by EU countries and slammed as "very dangerous" by the former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Climate finance

Another obstacle in the way of ambitious emission-reductions is a lack of funding. Lower-income countries, increasingly struggling with the global debt crisis, have insisted on more green funds from wealthy countries to help pay for clean energy.

But the preparatory negotiations in Bonn in June ended in disappointment when no progress on climate financing was achieved.

"I see a lack of ambition. A lack of trust. A lack of support. A lack of cooperation. And an abundance of problems around clarity and credibility," said UN secretary general Antonio Gutierrez at the time.

Timmermans on Thursday called for the doubling of climate adaptation finance and said the EU remains "deeply committed" to delivering its part of the promised $100bn [€90bn] in annual climate finance.

"I believe there is enough global capital, but there are barriers to re-channel finance," he said, adding that reforming finance will be a slow process.

"We should not naively expect that the transformation of the finance system to align global finance flows with the Paris [climate] goals will be achieved at our meeting in Dubai," he said.


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