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CEO of Abu Dhabi's National Oil Company calls for oil companies to get serious about climate change

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

An oil tanker floats next to an offshore oil rig in open ocean waters.
Image Credit: Wix

At a meeting of the most powerful figures in the world's oil and gas industry in Houston, the CEO of one of the largest state-owned oil companies called for the industry to do more to fight climate change.

"Houston, we have a problem," Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and president-designate of the COP28 climate summit, told the audience at the energy conference CERAWeek in remarks reported by the Reuters agency.

"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," Jaber said in his speech to an audience that included OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

Environmental activists and climate change advocates have criticized the decision to put Jaber, one of the leaders of the oil and gas industry globally, in charge of the next round of negotiations on how to address climate change, which are organized by the United Nations.

Despite the concerns around Jaber's sincerity, the UAE executive has support from one powerful ally in Kerry, who leads the U.S. efforts to wrangle global support to address the current climate emergency as the nation's Climate Envoy.

"Alongside all industries, the oil and gas needs to up its game, do more and do it faster," Jaber said.

While it's a true statement, the fact remains that oil and gas companies (especially those in the U.S.) have actively worked to dismantle efforts that would support a transition to renewable energy and funded disinformation campaigns about the role that fossil fuels played in global warming.

Indeed, ExxonMobil, one of the most vocal critics and biggest supporters of climate denialism knew as early as the 1980s exactly how continued fossil fuel emissions would impact the world.

In fact, energy companies had a limited presence at previous conferences organized by the United Nations.

Oil companies have been terrible, bad-faith actors when it comes to the climate crisis, but a transition away from fossil fuels will require their involvement in multi-national efforts.

"This industry must take responsibility and lead the way," Jaber said of the oil and gas sector. "Let's remember that progress is made through partnership not polarisation."


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