For anyone in the oil and gas industry, there is only one place to be this week. The great and good of the industry has converged on Houston for CERAWeek, which bills itself as the world’s premier energy event.
Delegates will listen to big oil bosses from BP, Shell, Exxon, and as well as political dignitaries such as John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. Energy Secretary.
Also addressing the conference this morning was Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, who currently fulfills two completely contradictory roles. He is the Group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as well as President for the upcoming COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year.
Many scientific, political, civil society commentators, including colleagues at Oil Change International, have already pointed out how utterly incompatible it is to be the boss of and oil company and a host of a climate conference at the same time. It is akin to a tobacco baron organizing a conference on smoking and health. The conflict of interest is palpable.
Speaking after his appointment, Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International, told the Financial Times that Al-Jaber’s presidency of COP28 was “tantamount to a full-scale capture of the UN climate talks by a petrostate national oil company and its associated fossil fuel lobbyists.”
Even the UN is worried about the appointment. In January, Politico reported that the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had sent “a series of questions to the presidency of the climate talks enquiring about whether the presidency will be independent of the oil company.”
You can see why the UN and others are worried. ADNOC, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, currently plans to increase fossil fuel production. A report by OCI published last year, titled, Investing in Disaster, revealed that ADNOC is on track to be one of the biggest expanders in terms of new Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) in new large scale oil and gas projects.
And although ADNOC has set net zero targets for Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, it admits in its 2021 Sustainability report that ADNOC “does not currently monitor its Scope 3 emissions due to its current operational business model.”
So roughly eighty-five percent of the company’s emissions – from consumers burning their products – are not measured.
Despite this, Dr. Al-Jaber was keen this morning to bolster his climate credentials by urging the oil industry to “up its game, do more, and do it faster.” The COP28 Presidency was also eager to tweet Dr. Al-Jaber’s comments.
"The oil & gas sector needs to up its game, do more and do it faster." #DrSultanAlJaber lays out the next steps for action:
-Triple renewable capacity
-Double hydrogen production
-Build out the hydrogen value chain
-Take carbon capture technologies to scale#CERAWeek #COP28UAE pic.twitter.com/FvFIoehUEI
— COP28 UAE (@COP28_UAE) March 7, 2023
It is not difficult to rip up Al-Jaber’s green facade. While any comments encouraging the oil industry to increase action on climate change are welcomed, as long as the industry carries on drilling, such rhetoric is flawed.
And what type of stepping up is Al-Jaber proposing? It is a false dawn of flawed solutions to the climate crisis, such as hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). These will only prolong our use of fossil fuels, not diminish them.
Responding to Al-Jaber’s speech, Romain Ioualalen, OCI Global Policy Campaign Manager, said the COP28 President: “trotted out the tired old playbook of delaying action and relying on speculative technologies to ensure fossil fuel CEOs continue to get rich, at the expense of all of us. The science is clear: the only way to limit warming to 1.5°C is to halt all new fossil fuel projects and shift investments to renewables.”
The only way we have any hope of solving climate change is to massively increase renewable energy, a solution that has been obvious for decades. But one, if you remain an oilman to your core, you cannot countenance, you cannot see.
The theme of this week’s CERA Week is “Navigating a Turbulent World: Energy, Climate and Security.” Investing in more fossil fuels and false solutions will only make our world more turbulent and more disruptive. Any climate scientist will tell you that. And maybe a climate scientist, not an oilman, should have been the President of the next COP too.