Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the United Nations climate conference in Dubai, has reaffirmed his respect for climate science amidst backlash following a leaked video where he questioned the

scientific basis regarding fossil fuels.

Amidst contentious discussions regarding the future of fossil fuels, Al-Jaber, who also serves as the head of the UAE's national oil company, ADNOC, criticized the persistent attempts to undermine the efforts of the COP28 presidency in Dubai.

Addressing reporters, Al-Jaber emphasized their commitment to respecting and believing in climate science. He expressed dismay at the disproportionate focus on a single statement taken out of context, stating it had received undue attention.

In a demonstration of the sensitivity of the matter, Jim Skea, head of the UN body overseeing climate science assessments, appeared alongside Al-Jaber to clarify the President's stance, affirming his attentiveness and understanding of scientific discourse.

Al-Jaber reiterated the necessity of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2030 to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, aligning with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) guidance.

The Guardian newspaper released a video portraying a tense exchange between Al-Jaber and former Irish president Mary Robinson during an online forum. Al-Jaber, during the SHE Changes Climate conference on November 21, asserted a commitment to factual discussions but expressed skepticism about alarmist views, drawing criticism from NGOs concerned about his appointment given his oil industry background.

In response to the outrage, Al-Jaber clarified that he consistently advocated for a "phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuels," although previous public statements predominantly referred to a "phase-down," suggesting a more gradual shift away from fossil fuels.

However, a published summary by the COP28 presidency highlighted discussions around "the phase down of fossil fuels," not explicitly mentioning a phase-out, diverging from calls made by various global leaders and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during their speeches.

As the talks continue, differences in views among nations persist. While some advocate for a swift phase-out to meet the 1.5-degree target, others, including major oil-producing nations, propose a more gradual transition away from fossil fuels.

Al-Jaber urged observers to allow the negotiation process the necessary space, emphasizing the need to assess the outcome at the end of the COP rather than prematurely evaluating the ongoing discussions. Photo by Masdar Corporate, Wikimedia commons.