The consensus among climate change activists and many commentators is that the decision to put the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in charge of this year’s COP28 climate talks in the United Arab Emirates is tantamount to appointing the a fox as the head of security at a chicken farm.
There is, however, an alternative view of the appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber as the designated president of what is seen as the most important summit on climate change since the Paris agreement was agreed at COP21 in 2015 .
Few people are better qualified for the job than Al Jaber, who for the better part of two decades has an unparalleled overview and a unique understanding of both sides of the energy equation. .
We all know that the entire planet must immediately transition from dependence on fossil fuels to sustainable alternatives. What is needed for that to happen, however, are solutions, and developing them on a planet-saving scale will require three things: money, extensive energy expertise, and self-interest.
As chief executive of ADNOC, one of the world’s largest oil companies, and as a citizen of a country facing its own climate crisis, Al Jaber has all three. Describing him as an out-and-out oilman whose appointment to lead COP28 is “extremely regressive” and “deeply problematic” is nonsense.
To suggest, as Climate Action International CEO Tasneem Essop did this month, that “the world needs to ensure that he steps down from his role as CEO of [ADNOC],” is the debasement of the world’s intelligence.
Not everyone is skeptical about Al Jaber’s appointment. US climate envoy John Kerry tweeted his “unique combination” of roles “will help bring all the necessary stakeholders to the table to move faster and scale.”
Al Jaber’s résumé speaks volumes. A chemical engineer by training, he began his career at ADNOC, but in 2006 was appointed CEO of Masdar’s launch, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company.
Masdar, whose shareholders include ADNOC and Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi investment company, has since become one of the world’s leading renewable energy firms, with more than US$30 billion invested in a wide range of green projects. in more than 40 countries.
Masdar invests in, and develops, a wide range of solutions, from solar energy and wind farms to green hydrogen and grid-level energy storage solutions.
In other words, 17 years ago – almost a decade before the Paris Agreement – the UAE laid the foundations for a post-oil future, and from the beginning, Al Jaber was the man of helm of that distant business.
No one understands better than the UAE in the world that change is coming, and coming fast, and that the energy industries on which the oil states were built must be reinvented if the their economies will survive, let alone continue to thrive.
As the national state-owned oil company of the UAE, ADNOC’s ultimate goal is the future well-being of the country and its people, and that future is inextricably linked to a successful transition to sustainable energy.
A 2015 study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that if carbon emissions are not curbed, much of the Persian Gulf region – including the UAE – could become uninhabitable by the end of the century.
As Al Jaber said at the recent opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, “Before anyone in this region saw a future in renewables, the UAE saw them as the future.”
The UAE is continuously working to evolve from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one, creating a legislative, fiscal, and lifestyle environment designed to attract global intellectual and technical expertise. and investment, while developing its own homegrown smart industries and talent. , in fields ranging from aerospace and transportation to medicine and sustainable energy.
Evidence of the success of this approach can be seen in the fact that, despite the old perception of the UAE as first and foremost a petrostate, in 2020, oil exports accounted for only 30% of GDP in the country of $ 359 billion.
Yes, the UAE is still fueled by fossil fuels – it holds 10% of the world’s total oil supply and has the fifth largest natural gas reserves. Critics point to ADNOC’s plans to increase oil production in the next few years as the smoking gun that proves Al Jaber is indeed a wolf in the coop.
But of course, it didn’t work.
We now live in a fossil-fueled world, and the demand for oil will not evaporate overnight – in fact, it will almost certainly increase in the near term as the world returns to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. and economies of developing countries continue. to grow.
Making a conscious decision not to provide for that need would be tantamount to economic sabotage on a global scale. Cutting off the flow of oil and gas tomorrow, as some activist groups want, will end life on Earth as we know it.
But equally important is the reality that developing the technologies needed to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy on a global scale requires significant investment and know-how – assets that organizations like ADNOC have.
Some may find this ridiculous, but the truth is that it is the oil revenue, reinvested with all the intelligence and vision that ADNOC – led by people like Al Jaber – has made possible. the transition to the post-oil period.
This month, the British Broadcasting Corporation asked: “Why was an oil boss chosen to lead the climate summit?”
The simple answer: He’s the best fox for the job.
This article is provided by Syndication Bureau, who holds the copyright.
Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who lives and works in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.