Host of UN’s Climate Parley Says Eliminating Fossil Fuels Would Send the Planet ‘Back Into Caves’

Shocked attendees of the conference say the comments are ‘incredibly concerning’ and amount to ‘climate denialism.’

AP/Peter Dejong
Anti-Israel demonstrators protest the Hamas war at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Sunday. AP/Peter Dejong

The host of a United Nations climate conference currently underway in Dubai says efforts to eliminate the use of fossil fuels are “alarmist” and that attempting to do so — as many climate activists are demanding — would send the world “back into caves” at the expense of struggling communities in the developing world.

Speaking during a sideline event at the global climate change conference, Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati president of the gathering known as COP28, said there is “no science” to back the proposition that eliminating fossil fuels would bring the world closer to meeting goals advocated in some circles to restrict global warming.

“I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist,” Mr. Al Jaber said, according to a report in the U.K.’s Guardian. “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”

“Show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” he added. “I don’t think [you] will be able to help solve the climate problem by pointing fingers or contributing to the polarization and the divide that is already happening in the world.”

Shocked attendees of the event told the Guardian that Mr. Al Jaber’s comments were “incredibly concerning” and amounted to “climate denialism.” Mr. Al Jaber’s comments contradict statements from the secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, who told delegates Friday that the science is settled on global warming. “The 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels,” Mr. Guterres said. “Not reduce, not abate. Phase out, with a clear timeframe.”

In addition to being the host of the Dubai event, Mr. Al Jaber is also the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, Adnoc.

The conference at Dubai has drawn tens of thousands of delegates to the Gulf State clamoring for quick action to curb climate change. The delegation sent by Nigeria alone, according to local press reports, numbers more than 1,400 people, among them government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and people from the country’s business community.

Calls for the elimination of fossil fuels have dominated the conference, with Pope Francis telling delegates that people of faith “need, urgently, to act for the sake of the environment” and King Charles calling for “transformational action” to address climate change. He suggested that wealthy nations pony up as much as $5 trillion per year to tackle the issue.


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