UAE — As the two-week UN Climate Conference (COP28) commences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), concerns have been raised by environmental activists regarding the role of petrostates in leading the global battle against climate change.

The UAE, among 28 countries, is projected to lose more than half of its estimated income from fossil fuels by 2040.

This is in reference to the Carbon Tracker study on energy transition acceleration, technological advancements, and climate policy tightening.

This conference follows closely on the heels of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) announcement that 2023 is expected to be the hottest year on record.

The average daily global temperature has surpassed 2°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time, underscoring the historical significance of the ongoing UN climate discussions.

A pivotal responsibility at COP28 will be for governments to collectively assess their progress toward meeting global climate targets, particularly the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global warming to below 2°C.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that existing practices may result in nearly a 3°C temperature rise by the end of the century, more than doubling the Paris Agreement’s target.

New research from the British Medical Journal reveals that the health toll of climate change is escalating, with over 5 million annual fatalities attributed to ambient air pollution from fossil fuel combustion.

This figure surpasses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) reported 7 million air pollution fatalities, encompassing both ambient and residential air pollution.

Scientists further caution that the current emissions trajectory could transform up to 19% of habitable land into unusable desert-like zones, jeopardizing livelihoods and displacing one in every three people from areas suitable for human life.

Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, emphasized the necessity of campaigning for the end of the fossil fuel era.

Romain Loualalen, the global policy campaign manager for Oil Change International, asserted that the success of COP28 hinges on whether it delivers a resolution on the phase-out of fossil fuels, acknowledging the challenges of expecting all countries to transition at the same rate.

Environmental groups, on their part, expressed heightened concern about the dual role of Al-Jaber, the COP28 president and Head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

Leaked documents indicate potential conflicts of interest, with Al-Jaber allegedly using his position to advocate for Adnoc in foreign dealings.

In response to these concerns, Al-Jaber contests the legitimacy of the documents, defending his ability to bridge the gap between the fossil fuel industry and climate negotiations.

Despite these assertions, the top 20 oil and gas companies are projected to emit 173% above the 1.5°C limit in 2040, highlighting the urgency for profound decisions by the industry, as emphasized by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and former UN climate chief Christina Figueres.

As the climate crisis worsens, the IEA urges oil and gas companies to reconsider their role in the energy sector, emphasizing that continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), including the UAE as a founding member, rebuffed accusations in a press release, stating that the industry is unfairly vilified as the cause of the climate crisis.