The chief executive of one of the world’s biggest oil companies, who will lead talks at the COP28 climate summit later this year, called on the energy industry to “up its game” to reduce emissions.
In a keynote speech to attendees gathered in Houston, Texas, for the CERAWeek conference — widely regarded as one of the biggest events on the calendar for the energy industry — Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan al-Jaber emphasized the “integral” role that the oil and gas sector plays in tackling the climate emergency.
“Energy leaders in this room have the knowledge, experience, expertise, and the resources needed … to address the dual challenge of driving sustainable progress while holding back emissions,” al-Jaber said Monday.
“It is this industry’s opportunity to reinvent itself and lead again,” he added. “Let me call on you to decarbonize quicker, future-proof sooner and create the energy system of the future today.”
The head of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company was seen as a controversial choice to lead the COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year. At the time of his appointment, many called on al-Jaber to relinquish his role, saying it poses a conflict of interest with his COP28 position.
Each year, ministers representing countries across the globe gather at COP to discuss how to achieve the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement — curbing global heating to just 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
If temperatures rise beyond this critical threshold, it becomes more likely that small changes can trigger dramatic shifts in Earth’s entire life support system.
The UAE, the third largest producer of the OPEC oil alliance, will host the U.N.-brokered climate talks from Nov. 30 through to Dec. 12.
The COP28 summit will see the first global stocktake since the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Oil and gas sector must ‘rapidly decarbonize’
The Adnoc chief cited the world’s leading climate scientists in saying humanity must cut emissions by 7% each year to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius. “That’s 43% in less than seven years,” he said.
“This year, the world will evaluate exactly where we are when it comes to climate progress through the first Global Stocktake. And we know we are way off track. We need a major course correction,” al-Jaber said at the conference.
“Alongside all industries, the oil and gas sector needs to up its game, do more and do it faster,” he added. “It needs to rapidly decarbonize its own operations. And it has a vital role to play in decarbonizing its customers.”
Big Oil executives have sought to defend their rising profits amid a barrage of criticism in recent months, typically highlighting the importance of energy security in the transition to renewables.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, is the chief driver of the climate crisis.
Speaking to Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of S&P Global and chairman of the CERAWeek conference, shortly after his speech, Adnoc’s al-Jaber said that the world “cannot responsibly unplug the energy system of today until the system of tomorrow is ready.”
Asked about his hopes for COP28, al-Jaber outlined key priorities across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance, among others,
“COP28 will be a COP of action,” al-Jaber said. “We want real results.”
He added, “The world must move from treaties to implementation. Solutions are needed inside and outside formal negotiations. It will also be a COP for all: inclusive of diverse stakeholders, accountable for commitments, and actionable on solutions.”