Oil still needed while world transitions to clean energy, says next COP president

We cannot unplug the current energy system before we have built the new one, says the UAE’s Industry Minister, pushing for investment in decarbonisation and financing for the Global South

February 07, 2023 04:35 pm | Updated 05:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

United Arab Emirates Industry Minister Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 31, 2022.

United Arab Emirates Industry Minister Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 31, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Despite the impressive growth of wind and solar power, renewable energy by itself will not be sufficient, particularly to transition industries that are entirely dependent on fossil fuel, according to the president-designate of the next UN summit on climate change.

This year’s Conference of Parties (COP-28) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, which holds one of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas. The summit’s president-designate is the U.A.E’s Minister for Industry Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Speaking at the ongoing India Energy Week in Bengaluru on Tuesday, he pushed for more investment in minimising the carbon footprint of hydrocarbons.

“Without a breakthrough in battery storage, we must invest heavily in carbon capture, nuclear power, and the hydrogen value chain. But spending on these fundamental enablers of decarbonization is less than 5% of what is spent on renewables. This must change. And when it comes to change, this also applies to the oil and gas industry. The world still needs hydrocarbons and will need them to bridge from the current energy system to the new one. We cannot unplug the current energy system before we have built the new one. As such, we must minimize their carbon footprint, only invest in the least carbon-intensive barrels and continue to reduce their intensity,” he said.

Fair deal for Global South

Mr. Al Jaber emphasised that the world’s energy transition must be inclusive and deliver a fair deal to the Global South, a term for developing countries that includes both India and the U.A.E.

“The energy transition has the potential to generate the greatest leap in economic prosperity since the first industrial revolution. But it must be fair. It must be just. And when it comes to the Global South, they have seen little justice so far. We must address this head-on. Previous climate finance pledges made by the world have come with a price tag, or not at all. Those pledges must be honoured,” he said, “We need to get more concessional finance to vulnerable communities around the world to lower risk, attract more private finance and turn billions into trillions.”

‘Restrain emissions, not progress’

COP-28 is slated to be held at the Expo City Dubai between November 30 and December 12, 2023. It will host over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors. As mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement, COP-28 will deliver the first-ever Global Stocktake — a comprehensive evaluation of the progress that countries have made in achieving their stated climate goals.

In his first international visit since his appointment as president-designate for COP-28, Mr. Al Jaber remarked on India’s strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its attempt to reckon with the central question of how to embed sustainable, environmentally friendly growth into its development model.

“As India’s economy surges, it is dealing with the fundamental question that the whole world faces. How to adopt policies that are pro-growth and pro-climate at the same time. How to provide for a world that will consume 30% more energy by 2050, while protecting our planet. In short, how to hold back emissions, not progress,” he said.

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