A new controversy surrounds the president of Cop 28, already nicknamed "Mr. Oil" in the corridors of the Dubai Expo. The Centre for Climate Reporting has released an audio recording during an online event held on 21 November, in which the Emirati Al Jaber states - evidently without ever having read the reports of the IPCC, the UN's scientific forum on climate - that "there is no science, no scenario, that claims that phasing out fossil fuels is what will lead us to limit global warming to 1.5°".

As if that weren't enough, an irritated Al Jaber challenged Mary Robinson, former UN special envoy for climate change: "Show me the 'road map' for a phase-out of fossil fuels that allows for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back to the caves."

These words are understandable from the mouth of the CEO of the UAE's state-owned oil company, Adnoc, but hardly acceptable if the sultan himself is tasked with leading diplomatic efforts to reduce climate-changing global emissions in a fog-shrouded Dubai. "Very serious and absolutely worrying statements, bordering on climate denialism," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, with whom he is now in open confrontation.

A few hours later came former US Vice President Al Gore, who revealed in the COP plenary hall, with the help of a satellite map, that the UAE's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 7.5% in 2022 compared to the previous year. An abnormality, considering that globally they grew by "only" 1.5%. "They have abused everyone's trust by appointing the CEO of one of the world's largest and least responsible oil companies as president of the climate conference," the former Nobel Peace Prize laureate told reporters. He then urged delegates not to accept the reference to carbon capture in the final COP 28 text, as producer countries would like: "It is a technology that is still in the research phase."

Already on the defensive by the BBC's indiscretions about its attempt to strike trade deals, during the conference, for the companies it manages, Al Jaber has shown great activism in these early days and the Emirates have opened the wallet, pledging generous contributions to climate finance. However, the credibility of the presidency is now compromised and calls for his resignation are mounting.

After the high-level summit, yesterday's day at the COP was dedicated to health: 124 countries, including this time China, signed a Declaration of Intent to reduce emissions in the health sector and increase financing for "climate health". The numbers are alarming. Global warming increases the spread of diseases such as cholera and malaria, and due to increasingly frequent heat waves, at least 21 million people will be at risk of death by 2050. Already today, more than 7 million deaths a year worldwide are attributable to pollution.

  • Environment