Sultan Al Jaber, the president of this year’s UN climate talks. AFP

HOUSTON: Sultan Al Jaber, the president of this year’s UN climate talks, on Monday said the oil and gas industry must lead the fight against climate change.

Al Jaber is minister of industry for the United Arab Emirates and is also chief executive of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Climate activists have criticised the decision to hold COP28 in the UAE, a major oil producer, and also the choice of Al Jaber as the meeting’s president.

“No one can be on the sidelines and this industry in particular, is integral to developing the solutions,” Al Jaber told hundreds of oil and gas executives at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas.

“In fact, this industry must take responsibility and lead the way,” he added.

The last UN climate talks, in Egypt in November, ended with a landmark deal to create a fund to cover the costs that developing countries face from climate-linked natural disasters.

But observers were left disappointed that little progress was made on reducing planet-heating carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

Al Jaber, who has taken part in more than 10 COP meetings, headed the UAE’s delegation to the last UN climate summit in Egypt. It was by far the biggest delegation to attend the talks, and one of the largest in COP history.

In Houston, he said the oil and gas industry must “rapidly decarbonize its own operations… and has a vital role to play in decarbonizing its customers.”

“The science is clear. We need to get fully behind net zero,” he said.

The oil and gas industry has been accused of delaying the climate and energy transition by working to preserve the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.

The UAE, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, argues that crude remains indispensable to the global economy and is needed to finance the energy transition.

The Gulf monarchy is pushing the merits of carbon capture — removing carbon dioxide as fuel is burned, or from the air.

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