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COP28
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Inconsistencies at COP28

Sultan al-Jaber’s profile does not favor the strategic role that the president should perform at the climate summit

Sultan al-Jaber
The UAE Minister of Industry and president of COP28, Sultan al-Jaber.THAIER AL-SUDANI (REUTERS)
El País

The president of COP28, Sultan al-Jaber, shocked delegates at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai last Sunday when statements in which he claimed there is no scientific evidence that the progressive reduction of fossil fuels will help to achieve the goal of not exceeding a 1.5ºC increase in global warming, established in the 2015 Paris Agreement, were made public. With those comments, al-Jaber not only denied what science already categorically affirms, but also ignored what the IPCC, the group of experts that advises the U.N. on climate change, says on the matter, while also questioning the words of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who opened the summit with an unequivocal warning: “We cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels.”

The scandal was of such magnitude that within hours al-Jaber was forced to qualify his statements and to stress that he believes in, and respects, science. Despite this rectification, the implications of his words cannot be overlooked. The seriousness lies in the fact that it casts doubt on the enormous amount of scientific knowledge that exists on the subject and gives wings to the negationist currents which, among other aspects, are characterized by their contempt for science. This is especially serious in a year in which fossil fuel emissions have reached record levels due to increases in countries such as India or China. It is abundantly clear that global warming is bordering on the safety levels established by science.

Al-Jaber’s statements once again place the spotlight on the suitability of his appointment as president of COP28, a summit that had already triggered controversy for being held in one of the main oil-producing countries. Al-Jaber is the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. His appointment, which was formally opposed at the U.N. by more than 50 social organizations from the United States and the European Union, represents a clear conflict of interest.

COP28 is crucial to advance on an ambitious path to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases, develop renewable energies, and lay out fair adaptation policies for the entire planet. The strategic role played by the presidency in facilitating discussions and pushing forward agreements would have made it advisable to appoint someone whose criteria were more consistent with the objective of the summit. Perhaps there will be time for what is discussed in Dubai to open the eyes of skeptics and lead to agreements to which as many countries as possible are committed, especially those that contribute most to climate change through their policies.

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