The C3 Solutions team arrived in Dubai this week amid an uproar around comments made by Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the UN COP28 climate discussion, in a leaked discussion with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. In this conversation, he said that there is “no science” that says phasing out fossil fuels is going to cap global temperatures at a UN target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
When pressed by Robinson, Al Jaber said the 1.5-degree goal was his “north star” but that he was not “signing up to any discussion that is alarmist” and that “we need to be real, serious and pragmatic about it.”
As Robinson further pressed (it’s worth watching the entire exchange) Al Jaber added, “please, help me, show me a roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuels that will allow for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
Amid the uproar that ensued, which included Al Gore lambasting Al Jaber for “mansplaining” to Robison, Al Jaber fired back that his comments were misinterpreted.
“Let’s just clarify where I stand on the science,” Al Jaber clarified, “I honestly think there is some confusion out there and misrepresentation. Let me first introduce myself to you. I’m an engineer by background. It’s the science and my respect for the science and my conviction for the science and the passion for the science that have allowed me to progress in my career.”
He added, “The phase-down and the phase-out of fossil fuels … is essential. It needs to be orderly, fair, just and responsible.”
The controversy itself is instructive. The thin-skinned response to Al Jaber’s argument is a much larger problem than the imprecision of his remarks. Robinson, Gore and the UN have not produced a plan that would allow the developing world to develop, lift people out of poverty, and avoid sending people “back into caves.” Yet, Al Jaber is the one who has been demonized by climate progressives.
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Our contribution at COP28 won’t be to litigate the debate between those who want to “phase out” or “phase down” fossil fuel use (the progressive left insists the “phase down” language is too weak). Instead, our aim will be to urge all parties to immediately embrace, or at least “phase in,” economic freedom so the best technologies can emerge as quickly as possible.
We believe it’s important for conservatives to participate in COP because we share Rep. John Curtis’ view that if conservatives aren’t at the table, we’re on the menu. The UN could benefit from more humility and trust in bottom up rather than top-down solutions. In his Techno-Optimist Manifesto, Marc Andreesen gets it right:
“We believe technology is universalist. Technology doesn’t care about your ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, sexuality, political views, height, weight, hair or lack thereof. Technology is built by a virtual United Nations of talent from all over the world. Anyone with a positive attitude and a cheap laptop can contribute. Technology is the ultimate open society.”
Toward the end of COP28, we’ll be hosting a symposium on durable climate solutions with experts around the world on December 9 and releasing the next edition of our “Free Economies are Clean Economies” report. We’re skeptical about what the United Nations talks can accomplish but we’re supremely confident in the creative potential of the virtual United Nations. Leaders at COP28 should focus on making the lives of those innovators easier if they are serious about hitting any targets in the future.