“We need major course correction”: Dr. Sultan Al Jaber at CERAWeek

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber Keynote Remarks at CERAWeek

COP28 President extended a bold call of action for the sector to “decarbonize quicker, future-proof sooner and create the energy system of the future – today".

The COP28 President urged all stakeholders to come together to fight climate change, including those from the energy industry.

Even before the First Global Stock Take (GST) happens at COP28, it is clear that the world needs to do more to fight climate change and help vulnerable populations prepare for climate-related challenges. The time is now for urgent, collective action across all sectors and industries.

March 9, 2023

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Addressing the audience at the 2023 CERAWeek conference, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President of COP28, said he truly believed in the ability of energy sector leaders to collectively make a tangible difference in the fight against climate change.

Dr. Al Jaber, who is also the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Special Envoy for Climate Change, spoke on the topic ‘The Road to COP28’ at the latest edition of the energy conference, attended by CEOs, government officials, and academic experts from energy, oil and gas, finance, and other sectors.

All parties need to fast-track solutions

Dr. Al Jaber began his keynote address by expressing his confidence that the energy industry has the potential to spur progress and truly make a difference. “In this room, there is a very evident representation of an industry that has delivered incredible global progress, lifted people out of poverty, and strengthened nations and economies,” he said, to great applause.

Speaking of the magnitude of the problem, he added: “I believe that the challenges we have to address must include all parties working together on fast-tracking solutions – solutions that the world urgently needs.” He said that the people gathered at the conference marked some of the individuals who could “make the biggest difference in addressing the challenges we face”, noting that energy leaders have the “knowledge, experience, expertise, and resources needed to address the dual challenge of driving sustainable progress while holding back emissions.”

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber says Energy industry has potential to spur progress

UAE embracing energy transition

He went on to outline how the UAE has been a leading force in tackling local as well as global challenges head-on by adopting a positive mindset and working with like-minded partners from all over the world.

“The truth is we have been on this path for more than two decades. We have always balanced economic growth with environmental responsibility and put climate action at the heart of our development agenda. We were the first country in our region to commit to the Paris Agreement, the first to set out a pathway to net zero, and we have diversified our energy mix into solar, nuclear, and hydrogen. We have also introduced demand-side management and energy efficiency across the board,” he said.

“Put simply, we are not shying away from the energy transition; in fact, we are running towards it. We are embracing the transition simply because we see an enormous economic opportunity, and we know it will make the world better, healthier, safer, and of course, more secure,” he added.

World faces energy dilemma

Praising the value of conferences like CERAWeek for the global energy agenda, Dr. Al Jaber emphasised the importance of addressing the energy dilemma that the world currently faces: how to supply affordable energy to a growing world while protecting the planet from the damaging effects and consequences of the global climate crisis.

According to the latest report by the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)), global temperatures are continuously rising at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, and the impacts are already being felt, including rising sea levels, failed harvests, and food and water insecurity.

He further stressed that the challenges will only become harder as the global population expands, and while everyone is affected, the most vulnerable communities in the Global South stand to suffer serious consequences. Last year, the world’s population already exceeded 8 billion people, and by 2030, research shows that an additional 500 million people will demand more energy year on year.

In addition to this, the IPCC report also highlights that, despite the requirement for more energy, the world must cut emissions by seven percent each year to keep global warming overall to under 1.5 degrees Celsius – this equates to a 43 percent reduction in less than seven years.

“We need major course correction”

“This year, the world will evaluate exactly where we are when it comes to climate progress, through the first Global Stocktake (GST) [scheduled to take place at COP28]. But we already know that we are way off track. What we need is a major course correction,” Dr. Al Jaber said.

He also pointed out that climate change is a challenge that affects the entire world and requires a collective effort from all stakeholders to solve. Speaking of the upcoming COP28 climate change conference in the UAE, he noted that it presents an opportunity to address this challenge, and that the UAE was approaching this monumental task with a sense of urgency, responsibility, and humility.

“Houston, we have a problem”

Dr. Al Jaber then stated that the world needs to recognise that climate change did indeed pose a serious problem, and to solve it would require a collective, concerted effort. In his speech, he drew attention to the seriousness of the issue by quoting the famous phrase uttered during the US Apollo 13 moon mission.

“First, we need to recognize, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’” he said, to a round of applause. “Then, we need to agree that failure is just not an option.”

Speaking of the need for everyone to work together, he said: “Every government, every industry, every business, and every individual has a role to play. No one can be on the sidelines, and this industry [the energy industry], in particular, is integral to developing the solutions. In fact, this industry must take responsibility and lead the way.”

Dr. Sultan AL Jaber says

Oil sector needs to do more, faster

Dr. Al Jaber stated that the oil and gas sector, like all other industries, must take more rapid and decisive action to address climate change. He said the sector needs to decarbonise its own operations quickly and take a leading role in helping its customers and consumers reduce their carbon footprint.

“We need to get fully behind net zero. Only half of the industry has declared Scope 1 and 2 Net Zero Gold by 2030 or by 2050. Everyone in the industry needs to be aligned around the same goal, and we should stretch ourselves to go further,” he said. “Let’s aim to achieve Net Zero even earlier. Why wait until 2050? Let’s scale up best practices and aim to reach net zero methane emissions by 2030.”

Decarbonisation alone not enough

There is an urgent need to electrify operations, implement carbon capture and storage, and adopt efficient technologies across all aspects of the oil and gas sector, said Dr. Al Jaber. He added that it’s very important to continue monitoring, measuring, and validating progress every step of the way.

Addressing the climate crisis requires more than just decarbonising oil and gas operations. With the right incentives, technologies, mindset, and partnerships, said Dr. Al Jaber, the industry can help address Scope 3 emissions. He called power generation the sector in which the biggest impact can be made in the shortest amount of time – for this, renewable energy capacity needs to triple by 2030. He urged companies to diversify their portfolios and provide the clean energy the world needs.

Further, he said that renewable energy is not enough for high-emitting sectors like aluminium, steel, and cement, which make up 30% of global emissions. There is a need to commercialise carbon capture and expand hydrogen production by 2030, with a focus on innovation and collaboration. He invited interested parties to partner with the UAE to turn the vision of clean energy into a reality.

Energy efficiency need of the hour

“Energy efficiency, as far as I’m concerned, is a quick win and we must stay laser-focused on it. Let’s work with customers to improve energy efficiency, while increasing access to zero-carbon energies, and let’s stay laser-focused on our objectives of rolling back emissions, not progress,” he said.

He called for the rapid decarbonisation of economies and the creation of an ecosystem that connects policy, people, technology, and capital. Policymakers need to create incentives that move the market in the right direction, and industry needs clear policies to guide long-term investment decisions, he said. The financial community needs to play a much bigger role in financing the energy transition, and investments should also reach developing economies and the global South.

“According to the IAEA, the world invested US$1.4 trillion in the energy transition in 2022. We need over three times that amount,” he stressed. “Capital must come from all sources, governments, the private sector, institutional investors, private equity, industry, and international financial institutions.”

He added: “When it comes to financing the energy transition, we must ensure that no one is left behind. Only 15 percent of clean tech investments reached developing economies and the Global South, and that is where 80 percent of the population lives. That is why we need to fundamentally reform the IFIs and the MDBs to unlock concessional finance, lower risk, and attract greater private investment.

Opportunity to reinvent and lead

He concluded his address by stating his belief that the transformation of the global energy sector presents a significant opportunity for human and economic growth, one of the biggest since the First Industrial Revolution.

“It is this industry’s opportunity to reinvent itself and lead again. Let me call on you to decarbonise quicker, future-proof sooner, and create the energy system of the future today,” he said. “Let’s remember that progress is made through partnership, not polarisation. Let’s unite a divided world with a COP of solidarity, a COP of action, and a COP for all. All of us need to be pulling in the same direction because there is more energy and unity than division."