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The Oil Man’s Wish to Salvage the World from Climate Change

"Villain for some, a hero for others"


Donning the dishdasha, a seemingly sturdy figure standing tall amidst the plutocrats from around the globe, throws a barrage of bromides to soothe his audience which is perpetually nervous for the spectre of climate change that has been haunting them for what now feels like an eternity. The brawny man belying his age of fifty is Sultan Al Jaber sermonising at the Pre-COP 28 (Conference of Parties) which is a follow-up to the most limelight-catching climate change conference held annually. This year it is UAE’s turn to congregate with climate enthusiasts, green technology leaders, passionate activists and the conventional leaders of legions of nations to deliberate and deliver the pledges and assurances to keep the planet from warming up to the tune of 2℃. But people are in awe of UAE’s decision to appoint Mr Al Jaber, who is the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) as the president of the conference. The irony here is explicit and unhealthy for the planet.

The Oil Man’s Wish to Salvage the World from Climate Change. Donning the dishdasha, a seemingly sturdy figure standing tall amidst the plutocrats from around the globe, throws a barrage of bromides to soothe his audience which is perpetually nervous for the spectre of climate change that has been haunting them for what now feels like an eternity. The brawny man belying his age of fifty is Sultan Al Jaber sermonising at the Pre-COP 28 (Conference of Parties) which is a follow-up to the most limelight-catching climate change conference held annually.

'World's a boiling cauldron' is what we hear people say these days and who's to blame? My guess is… well it's not limited to one word because it's a complex world but Mr Al Jaber's is. In a helter-skelter kind of an interview with The Guardian's Fiona Harvey, he bluntly stated that "It's the consumer who contributes to increasing CO2 emissions, not the producer.” And his's not a guess but a blatant opinion which reflects the elite psyche of guilt-tripping the middle and poor class for the wrongs committed by the avaricious. Imagine you are tasked with saving the world from some monsters who feed on the crop grown in your own backyard. You can't stop reaping the crop because it's lucrative but still vow to defeat the monsters with the use of some magic charms. This is the story of Al Jaber who posits hitherto underperforming technology of 'carbon capture and storage' as his pixie dust while spearheading the expansionary vision of ADNOC to produce 5 million barrels per day by 2030.

Al Jaber isn't all about oil and opulence. He is like a holy Hindu who, in his make-believe, washes off his sins by diving into the Ganges. As the chairman of Masdar - UAE’s renewable energy company, and the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, he beacons his nation's aspirations of being a leading developer of green energy innovations in the face of the opprobrium which the country might have to face given its resource-based economy. This is a quintessential example of a conflict of interest conundrum but ‘Mr Oil Man’ doesn’t seem to pay attention to it. One can even call this greenwashing or hedging. It's about mingling with the crowd, the narrative in vogue to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing so that you can implement your actual plans. Al Jaber’s plan might be ambiguous, for we, the masses are far off from all the diplomacy, the backdoor meetings, and the men in suits exchanging formalities.



Al Jaber’s role as the president of the purported biggest COP this year is what the oil industry and its goliaths might be looking for. Their own man at the helm of the climate change debate provides them credibility and paints them green insinuating at the black gold industry’s change of heart and mind for the overall good of the society and the planet. But is that really possible? One thing which is conspicuous in the ‘green’ dialogue is the imminent need to ‘phase down’ and eventually phase out the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix with a simultaneous expedition in the development of renewable technologies such as wind and solar. Now, one can only imagine how Al Jaber being a petro-CEO will act on this non-negotiable proposition.


Is Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber ready to be the harbinger of the oil empire’s liquidation? Although he vouchsafes for fossil fuels’ presence in the distant future arguing that “the world will continue to need this source of energy”, the harsh truth is that the withdrawal of carbon-emitting energy needs to be the final nail in the coffin. His commitments towards ADNOC and Masdar are nothing short of antithetical on a personal level and hypocritical in the public realm. A rational mind will infer this move either as a grave mistake or a clever tactic on the part of the Emirates. He is already reeling under the pressure and intensely working with his team to make COP 28 successful for his nation. This is the big screen picture but behind the curtains, there are all sorts of conflicts, mistrusts, and uncertainties.

The world currently needs a streak of unwavering cooperation by the government, private sector stalwarts and the people en masse to save itself from turning into an uninhabitable ghost town. Off and on, a messiah to command and keep these actors intact is also needed. Al Jaber is not that messiah.

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