A Climate Ally Like Sultan Al Jaber is the need of the hour

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Several environmentalists laughed when the UN announced that the United Arab Emirates would host the COP2023 climate meeting. A climate conference in an oil-producing nation? The scoffing only increased when the UAE declared Sultan Al Jaber, the president, would lead its national oil corporation. Al Jaber is the exact type of ally the climate movement needs, therefore the protesters should quit whining.

On a recent trip to India, Al Jaber spoke about the size of the challenge at hand. He stated that the UAE wanted to help India meet its ambitious clean energy goals. It was demanded that more money be allocated to decarbonization technologies including nuclear power and hydrogen production. He also backed a society-wide plan that encompasses all sectors and puts more pressure on banks for development and financial institutions.

The necessity to reduce the climate effect of fossil fuels while the world switches to clean energy was also addressed by him. “That is not a conflict of interest; it is in our common interest to have the energy industry working alongside everyone,” he said in response to his critics.

Al Jaber’s detractors frequently neglect the fact that the world still needs oil and gas and will do so for some time. It is not required to immediately halt all oil and gas production in order to tackle climate change; rather, it is vital to develop enough renewable energy to phase it out as quickly as possible.

He also discussed the need to lessen the impact of fossil fuels on the climate as the globe transitions to clean energy. In response to his criticisms, he stated: “That is not a conflict of interest; it is in our common interest to have the energy business working alongside everyone.”

The reality that the world still requires oil and gas and will do so for some time is usually overlooked by Al Jaber’s critics. It is not required to immediately halt all oil and gas production in order to tackle climate change; rather, it is vital to develop enough renewable energy to phase it out as quickly as possible.

As he prepares for the summit in November, Al Jaber must exert more pressure on developed countries to fulfill their financial commitments to the developing world, push development banks and sovereign wealth funds to raise their objectives, and help remove barriers to more private sector investment in clean energy projects, particularly in developed countries.

He can also allay some of the public scepticism about his selection by focusing on the coal-fired power facilities that are the main impediment to significant climate progress. Where coal still has a price advantage (typically due to subsidies), new public-private partnerships, like the one the G-20 developed with Indonesia, can help countries hasten the transition. Renewable energy is now more affordable than coal power in much of the world.

Of course, there are distinctions to be made between making a strong speech and inspiring the entire globe to take action. Al Jaber’s emphasis in his address that this year’s summit must be “a COP of action”—one that advances the world “from talking about goals to getting the job done”—was therefore encouraging.

Al Jaber will be held responsible for putting his words into action, and that is right, but environmental activists should also understand that they can accomplish far more by seeing him as an ally than by seeing him as a threat.