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Sultan Al Jaber at the UN Climate Change Conference

Photo: Karim Sahib / AFP

The President of the UN Climate Change Conference, Sultan Al Jaber, has made a clear commitment to the scientific basis of the climate protection process. "I've always made it clear that everything we do is focused on science," Al Jaber said in Dubai.

On Sunday, Al Jaber had already stressed the importance of acknowledging the scientific findings. "Science has spoken, and it has been loud and clear," he said. "It confirmed that now is the moment to find a new path – a path that is broad enough for all of us, free from the obstacles and detours of the past."

With his commitment to science, Al Jaber was now apparently reacting to accusations relating to statements attributed to him in the run-up to the conference. The British newspaper The Guardian quoted the COP president as saying: "No scientific study, no scenario says that we can achieve 1.5 degrees by phasing out fossil fuels." Al Jaber is also reported to have said at an event on November 21 that phasing out fossil fuels could "send the world back to the Stone Age."

This had caused a storm of indignation. On the part of the Emirati COP presidency, it was said that the quotes were taken out of context. Al Jaber also said that he works closely with "my friend Jim," the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jim Skea, and that his work is strictly fact-based. According to the findings of the IPCC, the leading scientific body on climate protection, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times is not achievable without moving away from fossil fuels.

Commenting on the course of the conference so far, Al Jaber said that a lot had already been achieved. He referred to the successful launch of the new fund for climate-related damage, declarations on health and the expansion of renewable energy. Here, the COP presidency committed itself to the goal of tripling the expansion of renewables by 2030 and doubling progress in energy efficiency.

It must be possible to "keep the 1.5-degree target within reach," said Al Jaber. To achieve this, it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2030 percent by 43. The COP President also referred to the Global Decarbonization Alliance, which he supports, in which a number of countries and major oil companies commit themselves to significantly reducing emissions from the extraction and production of fossil fuels.

However, Al Jaber again did not respond to the calls for a phase-out of coal, oil and gas. Despite his commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the conference president is also met with skepticism because he is also the industry minister of the oil- and gas-rich United Arab Emirates and head of the country's state-owned oil company Adnoc.