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It comes shortly after documents that were leaked revealed that the COP28 presidency intended to pitch oil and gas deals at the UN summit.

Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, claimed in an interview last month that claims that a phase-out of fossil fuels is required to stop global warming from reaching 1.5°C are unsupported by science, which has stoked the debate over this year’s presidency.

The Guardian and the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) were the first to report the remarks, which were made during a conversation with former Irish president Mary Robinson on November 21.

Al Jaber was given the “credibility” necessary to push for a fossil fuel phase-out deal at COP28 by Robinson, the chair of the Elders group, an international non-governmental organization of public figures known as senior statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocate. Robinson spoke at the event.

I in no way consent to any discussion that is alarming” Al Jaber, the head of the state oil behemoth Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, retorted that there is no science or scenario that suggests the phase-out of fossil fuel is what will achieve 1.5°C.

He continued,” Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for green economic development, unless you want to take the world back into cave“. Robinson had previously stated that Adnoc was planning to increase his investments in these fuels over the next few years.

The story was” just another attempt to undermine the presidency’s agenda, which has been clear and transparent and backed by substantial achievements” according to a COP28 spokesperson questioned about the situation on Sunday.

According to the spokesperson, Al Jaber has frequently expressed our position on fossil fuels and invited all parties to cooperate and develop solutions that can achieve alignment, popular ground, and consensus.

Al Jaber emphasized the need to phase out fossil fuel emissions by concentrating on the development of novel emission reduction technologies at a climate summit in Germany earlier this year.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), this year’s COP host,” will encourage smart government regulation to jump-start the hydrogen value chain and make carbon capture commercially viable,” he said, adding that “in a pragmatic, just, and well-managed energy transition, we must be laser-focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions“.

The choice to host COP28 in the oil-rich UAE and Al Jaber’s appointment have drawn criticism from the start.

The UAE released a third update of its National Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the weeks leading up to COP28, which began in Dubai last week. In this update, the goal was to cut emissions by 40 % by the end of the decade, an increase of 9 % from the previous target. However, some people deemed the efforts outlined in the novel climate plan to be “insufficient“. Non-profit Climate Action Tracker (CAT) stated in a report published in July that CO2 emissions are anticipated to rise through 2030 as the nation plans to continue increasing fossil fuel production and consumption, which is at odds with the urgent reduction required to stop global warming.

Al Jaber’s announcement of the UAE-backed Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter at COP28 on Saturday has even drawn criticism. ExxonMobil and the state energy companies Saudi Aramco and Adnoc are two of the top fossil fuel companies that have pledged to set emissions reduction goals for their personal operations, but none have committed to reducing production. Although the targets are not legally bound, signatories—who collectively account for about one-third of the world’s oil and gas production—must submit a plan to meet them by 2025.

Al Jaber’s plans were criticized by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who claimed that they “evidently fall short of what is required“. Al Gore, a former US vice president and climate activist, even voiced his disapproval, calling the UAE’s role as the climate talks supervisor an abuse of public trust. “By electing the CEO of one of the biggest and least ethical oil companies in the world to lead the COP, they are betraying the public’s trust“, he claimed.

The report was released just days after a CCR and BBC investigation revealed that the COP28 presidency intended to push for oil and gas agreements through meetings with other nations. Leaked documents reveal that fossil fuels were a topic of discussion at meetings between the UAE energy company and 15 countries prior to the summit, despite as Jaber’s repeated denials of his involvement.

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