On Sunday, the president of the COP28 climate summit launched a broadside atttack on the zero-emission policies being supported by the United Nations, noting that there is “no science” which would demonstrate that stage-by-stage cuts in fossil fuel use will decrease global warning.

Speaking as the chair of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said if you impose a gradual reduction in fossil fuel consumption, you will reduce the advance of sustainable development, and that would take humanity back to the paleolithic period.

He made the comments during a live online event, while answering questions from former UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson. Observers noted his statements were in direct opposition to the position of the United Nations and its secretary general Antonio Guterres.

The Guardian quoted Robinson, who chairs The Elders, a London-based human rights and environmental NGO, as saying, “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone… and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel.”

She added, “That is the one decision that Cop28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of Adnoc, you could actually take it with more credibility.”

Al Jaber is the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates state oil company Adnoc, while he is chairing the COP28 in Dubai. Observers have made the case that his occupancy of the two roles constitutes a conflict of interest.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said in response to Robinson’s remarks, that he would expect a “sober and mature” conversation that was not “alarmist.”

He said, “There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5°C,” adding, such a move would not “allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

When Robinson argued that his opinions would be affected by the fact that Adnoc was investing in future fossil fuel production heavily, Al Jaber responded that she and those who supported her position were only reading their own media, which is biased and mistaken.

He added that he believes a phase out of fossil fuels would prove “essentially inevitable” however the world should be “real serious and pragmatic about it.”

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