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Reduction of fossil fuel use ‘inevitable’: Emirati COP28 chief

BONN (AFP) – The head of the upcoming Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) climate summit, who also is the chief executive of the United Arab Emirate’s national oil company, acknowledged on Thursday that a reduction in the use of fossil fuels is inescapable.

“The phase down of fossil fuels is inevitable,” Sultan Al-Jaber (AP, pic below) 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).

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”.

His comments came as numerous participants and observers in the United Nations climate negotiations have called on Al-Jaber to explicitly acknowledge the importance of ending the use of fossil fuels, an objective no COP summit to date has been able to put down in writing.

Director of Power Shift Africa, an African climate and energy think tank, Mohamed Adow 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.

Senior policy analyst at climate think tank E3G Alden Meyer, called the acknowledgement of the need to phase down fossil fuels “a useful first step”.

However he added that the vast majority of emissions reductions to be achieved by 2030 “needs to come from cutting use and production of oil, gas, and coal”, rather than from carbon capture or hydrogen.

Christian Aid Ireland Policy and Advocacy Officer Ross Fitzpatrick said it was great to see the COP28 chief “waking up to the inevitability of phasing out fossil fuels”.

“The UAE would be a very fitting location to mark the end of the fossil fuel age,” he added.

On Wednesday, Al-Jaber signed a statement with European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen calling for “a transition towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels”, meaning fossil fuels without carbon capture systems, hinting at a possible compromise in the coming months between different camps in the negotiations.

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

At the talks in Bonn, the exit from fossil fuel use dominated the talk among activists and experts who pointed to the fact that burning fossil fuels is the main driver of global warming.

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