Climate advocate and former Vice President Al Gore on Sunday called into question the decision to hold the COP28 climate talks in the United Arab Emirates, a leading producer of the world’s oil.
Gore also criticized the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as the conference’s president, given that countries gathered in Dubai for the annual climate conference are discussing ways to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
“It’s not so much that it’s in a country that produces oil; it’s the appointment of the CEO of one the biggest and least responsible oil companies on the planet to be the head of the conference,” Gore said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” characterizing Al Jaber’s role as a “direct conflict of interest” and arguing the fossil fuel industry has “gone too far.”
But Gore remained optimistic, saying that the UN-backed summit’s controversial location and leader could be a “blessing in disguise” that “has awakened a lot of people to how absurd this situation is.”
“I think there’s a chance that we could see a surprisingly good outcome here if the majority of the countries there hold on to their convictions and demand a phaseout of fossil fuels,” he said.
Al Jaber, in a late November panel discussion, said there is “no science” behind the demand to phase out fossil fuel to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – the goal of the Paris climate agreement. After those comments came to light last week, Al Jaber fiercely defended his commitment to climate science and said phasing out fossil fuels is “inevitable” and “essential.”
US climate envoy John Kerry has publicly supported Al Jaber’s COP presidency several times but chose not to wade into it at a news conference last week.
The first week of COP28 came to close on Thursday and countries will now begin negotiating an agreement around the phaseout of fossil fuels — which are the main driver of climate change — for the first time at the annual climate talks. More than 100 countries support a phaseout in some form, but some oil-producing nations don’t want any reference to reducing oil and gas.
Gore on Sunday also attributed a global mental health crisis in part to unaddressed threats around climate change.
“The people of our world deserve to have some confidence that this process has integrity,” he said, “and we’ve been seeing the fossil fuel polluters try to manipulate this process for a long time, and the world is running out of patience.”
Despite pollution-slashing pledges made at the conference, the world is still off track to limit global warming to the crucial 1.5-degree threshold, an analysis by the International Energy Agency published Sunday shows. A statement from the agency said the pledges “would not be nearly enough” to accomplish what is now required to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above temperatures before industrialization
Gore on Trump
The former vice president on Sunday also weighed in on what another Donald Trump presidency would look like, pointing to Trump’s comment to Fox’s Sean Hannity during a town hall last week that he wouldn’t be a dictator “except for Day 1.”
Gore told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “You kind of wonder what it’ll take for people to believe him when he tells us who he is.”
“And the solution to political despair is political action. And for those in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and independents who love American democracy and who want to preserve our capacity to govern ourselves and solve our problems, now’s the time to get active,” Gore added.
Trump’s remark to Hannity last week was in response to comments made by former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who lost her seat to a Trump-backed primary challenger last year after she participated in the House select committee that probed the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol. She said in a recent CBS interview that the nation would be “sleepwalking into a dictatorship” if Trump were to win the 2024 presidential election.
Trump, in a speech hosted by the New York Young Republican Club on Saturday, called worries about him becoming a threat to Democracy “a hoax. We call it now the threat-to-democracy hoax, because that’s what it is.”
CNN’s Angela Dewan, Eric Bradner and Alison Main contributed to this report