Fossil fuel backers overshadow climate change talks in Dubai

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A flurry of summits this week across Dubai all focused in one way or another on climate change, or at least acknowledgement that the global energy transition is needed to keep temperatures from rising

April 3, 2022, 7: 31 AM

7 min read

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A flurry of summits this week across Dubai addressed the threat of climate change, or at least acknowledged that a pivot away from fossil fuels toward cleaner sources of power is needed to keep temperatures from rising. The glaring fault lines are in the timing and how to achieve it. Fossil fuel producers like the United Arab Emirates which hosted the gatherings need to make more investments in oil and natural gas.

” We absolutely at this time need all available resources,” Suhail Al-Mazrouei (UAE Minister of Energy) said at a Dubai energy forum.

” We cannot ignore or claim that we will abandon certain production. He said that it was not the right time for any reason, and that prices would rise too much for millions of people around the globe.

It was a constant drumbeat that reverberated throughout the week in Dubai, indicating the prominent role fossil fuel producers want to play in the global climate change conversation. It was heard at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum and the World Government Summit, as well as at a UAE-sponsored week on climate change in partnership with United Nations.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo said that in the upcoming U.N. climate talks, known as COP27, in Egypt and next year’s COP28 in the UAE, producers can address issues around “inclusiveness to ensure no sector is left behind, to address the issue of investment in the industry and to reassess the conversation. He stated that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) is a benchmark, and scientists warn that any further warming will cause more severe consequences for people around the world. To support their argument, fossil fuel investors pointed to the current high oil prices and global demand for oil as reminders. At times, there was almost derision when countries like the United States, United Kingdom and others called for the use of fossil fuels to decrease over the long-term but also pleaded for more oil to lower prices for consumers. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) and other international bodies have stated that there should be no new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure to combat climate change. They also said that the main fuels that are responsible for climate change must be phased out over time.

That was reiterated in a 350-page report this week by The International Renewable Energy Agency that said the world must take “radical action” by investing $5.7 trillion each year through 2030 to shift away from fossil fuels. IRENA, which happens to be headquartered in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, said investments of $700 billion should be diverted away from the fossil fuel sector each year.

” The energy transition is far from complete and any lack of radical action in coming years will reduce, or even eliminate, our chances of meeting our climate goals,” Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA at the time the report was published.

OPEC, weighted by Saudi Arabia, projects that more oil will be needed through 2040 and beyond, particularly in Asia.

Brent crude stands at $105 a barrel, the highest in eight years. These prices are good for both the oil-dependent economies of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Russia. They also help Moscow offset some of U.S.-led sanctions relating to the war in Ukraine.

” Take a look at what’s happening today. Who is talking about climate change right now? “Who’s talking about energy security, first and foremost?” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, said in a series of thoughtful but cautious remarks at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Without energy security, countries will not have the ability to combat climate change, he stated.

Recent statistics show that, despite rapid growth of renewable energy, total greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, not decreasing, due to rising energy demand and increased fossil fuel use.

The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva encouraged advanced economies to meet the goal of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries. At the World Government Summit in Dubai, she made these remarks. She also presented an IMF paper entitled “Feeling Heat” about adapting to climate changes in the Middle East.

Sultan al-Jaber is the UAE’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and the Managing Director for Abu Dhabi’s state-owned petroleum company. He repeatedly argues that the energy transition is going to take time. He also claims that the world will require more oil and gas over that time.

“He stated at the energy forum that we cannot and must not unplug our current energy system before we build the new one. He stated that the push to eliminate hydrocarbons has caused a supply crisis at the U.N.-backed Climate Week event, held at the luxurious Altantis hotel. Al-Jaber’s dual roles as climate change envoy, and head of ADNOC (the state-owned oil-and-gas firm), illustrate the two paths that the UAE is on. On one hand, the country has committed to net-zero emissions within its own borders by 2050. It is also committing to increasing oil and gas production for export. The country’s pledges do not include the emissions from burning this fuel.

Al-Jaber summed up this dual track, saying the UAE is expanding production capacity of what he dubbed “the world’s least carbon-intensive oil to over 5 million barrels per day” and its natural gas capacity by 30%. Simultaneously, the UAE has plans to invest $160 billion in renewable energy to achieve its net-zero pledge.

Saudi Arabia, which pledged to have net-zero emissions by 2060, is similarly cutting emissions domestically while vowing to keep pumping oil until the last drop. As the Middle East experiences rising temperatures and humidity, and water scarcity, it is increasing its production capacity. This threatens food security and the livelihoods of many Middle East countries. Participants at the U.N. Climate Week event drank coffee and ate buffet lunches while they listened to panels and listened to workshops on everything, from food sustainability to water scarcity and carbon-credit swaps.

It left Yara Wael, 23, from Alexandria, Egypt, excited for her country’s turn at hosting this year’s major global climate summit, but she was also left baffled. She is a Banlastic worker in Egypt, which aims at eliminating single-use plastics. This was her first trip to Egypt.

She questioned the origin of the leftover food from the buffet and pointed out that the paper cups she used for coffee and tea could have easily been recycled or biodegradable.

“When an event is held on climate change or the environment, we need to think about ourselves and reflect on what we are doing.

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Follow Aya Batrawy on Twitter at http:/twitter.com/ayaelb

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about the AP’s climate initiative. All content is solely the responsibility of the AP.


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