Al-Jaber Urges Industry to 'Up Game' on Climate

Copyright © 2023 Energy Intelligence Group All rights reserved. Unauthorized access or electronic forwarding, even for internal use, is prohibited.
Kamran Jebreili/AP

Sultan al-Jaber, president of this year's COP28 climate conference in Dubai, has urged the oil and gas industry to embrace the low-carbon transition and "up its game" to decarbonize hydrocarbons.

"Alongside all industries, the oil and gas sector needs to up its game, do more and do it faster," al-Jaber told the CERAWeek by S&P Global energy conference in Houston on Monday.

"It needs to rapidly decarbonize its own operations, and it has a vital role to play in decarbonizing its customers, its consumers and those who use the hydrocarbons," he said.

Al-Jaber, who has a long track record in clean energy, was appointed in January to head the United Arab Emirates' COP28 presidency.

The choice drew strong criticism from climate activists because of his parallel role as CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

However, top climate diplomats, including John Kerry of the US and Frans Timmermans of the EU, welcomed his appointment,

They described him as an experienced diplomat and businessman who can help bring other oil and gas executives on board.

In his CERAWeek address, Al-Jaber made a push to do exactly that.

'Start a New Chapter'

He acknowledged that some industry players may have felt excluded from the climate debate in the past, while others may have felt it "isn't their problem to fix," but added: "Today, I want us all to start a new chapter."

"The energy leaders in this room have the knowledge, experience, expertise, and the resources needed to address the dual challenge of driving sustainable progress while holding back emissions," he said.

"And I truly believe in our collective ability to step up and make a difference, because otherwise we will just keep going in circles."

Al-Jaber said the challenge of transforming the world's energy system "represents the greatest opportunity for human and economic development since the first industrial revolution."

But it also represents "this industry’s opportunity to reinvent itself and lead again," he said.

Al-Jaber said the UAE had adopted "a positive mindset," placing climate action at the heart of development policy, diversifying its energy mix with solar, nuclear and hydrogen, and becoming the first country in its region to commit to both the Paris Agreement and a net-zero pathway.

"Put simply, we are not shying away from the energy transition, we are running towards it," he said.

"We are embracing the transition, because we see enormous economic opportunity and we know it will make the world better, healthier, safer, and more secure."

'Stretch Ourselves to Go Further'

Declaring that "the science is crystal clear" and that "we need to get fully behind net zero," al-Jaber noted that only half of the industry has set a 2050 net-zero goal for Scope 1 and 2 (operational) emissions.

"Everyone in the industry needs to be aligned around the same goal. And we should stretch ourselves to go further," he said.

Al-Jaber urged the industry to achieve net zero "even earlier" than 2050, hit net-zero methane emissions by 2030, electrify operations, roll out carbon capture and storage, improve its efficiency and help others address Scope 3 (end-user) emissions.

"This is the decade to diversify portfolios, future-proof companies and provide the clean energy the world needs," al-Jaber said.

COP28 Challenge

COP28 will take place in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. It will include the first "Global Stocktake" of progress on carbon emissions cuts, which is expected to put pressure on world governments to take stronger action to address climate change.

Al-Jaber said the stocktaking exercise is not needed to know that the world is "way off track" and that "a major course correction" is needed.

Last year's COP27 meeting in Egypt had a neutral outcome: It made progress on the issue of compensating poor nations facing damage from climate change, but the final statement was marred by haggling between producers and consumers about language on fossil fuels.

Analysts have said that one of the central issues for COP28 is how the UAE will balance the interests of oil producers and those who are seeking a faster transition, while also preserving national prestige.

Al-Jaber said that he would encourage "space for dialogue" at COP28 and would work to "build bridges," while also ensuring that the agenda "is centered on execution and implementation."

He cited support from other parties that believe in a "pragmatic, practical approach" and a "balance between passion and realism," saying he was confident that the meeting "will be able to deliver transformational progress."

Low-Carbon Policy, Methane Emissions, CO2 Emissions, Carbon Capture (CCS), Policy and Regulation
Wanda Ad #2 (article footer)
A surge in China's imports of refined products was a major contributor to the increase in China's overall oil demand in April.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023
China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment has granted key environmental approvals for four newbuilds, all in China's southern Guangxi Autonomous Region.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023
Some see carbon capture and storage as a silver bullet, allowing the oil industry to continue growing, but the reality is more complicated.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023