DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Don’t trust the oil and gas industry to report their actual carbon pollution, said former US Vice President Al Gore, who added that the man leading the United Nations climate talks runs one of the “dirtiest” oil companies out there.
“They’re much better at capturing politicians than they are at capturing emissions,” Gore told The Associated Press in a sit-down interview.
The Nobel Prize-winning climate activist, author and filmmaker blasted Sultan al-Jaber, the president of the United Nations climate talks, who is also president of the national oil company of the host nation, United Arab Emirates. Gore said al-Jaber’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is “one of the largest and one of the dirtiest, by many measures, oil companies in the world.”
Gore can make these claims because he just released a massive update of the Climate TRACE database of emissions that he helped create. It tracks carbon pollution from every nation and city across the globe with 352 million pieces of information.
Looking at the data released Sunday, Gore said, “the No. 1 surprise was how far off the reporting from the oil and gas industry is. And we see it here in the United Arab Emirates, you know, nice folks. But the numbers they put out are just not right. And we can prove they’re not right.”
In a one-hour data-heavy presentation at the UN conference, Gore said: “The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company still claims to have no emissions from methane or anything else from the transport of oil and gas. Well, actually, they do. We can see them from space.”
“Why can we see the leakage from space if there are no leakages? Well, these were self-reported emissions,” Gore said. Then showing his data: “And this is the actual emissions. And these are the emissions last year here.”
In his interview, Gore repeatedly took aim at al-Jaber being picked by the UAE to chair the climate conference. As summit host, the local government chooses the president of the talks.
“He’s a nice guy. He’s a smart guy. I’ve known him for years. But he has a direct conflict of interest,” Gore said. “And this isn’t some kind of nitpicking complaint. This goes to the heart of whether or not the world is going to have the ability to make intelligent decisions about humanity’s future.”
Gore said “his main job is the head of the oil company. And honestly, when I look at the massive expansion plan that they have to increase their production of oil, 50 percent, increase their production of gas” when the climate conference ends, he asked, “do you take us for his fools?”
In a rare, combative and brief press conference Monday, al-Jaber defended his record and the idea of bringing oil companies into the efforts to curb climate change.
“They’ve stepped up,” al-Jaber said of oil industry colleagues. “Is it enough? No.”
In previous comments, al-Jaber’s colleagues have dismissed media coverage detailing ADNOC’s expansion plans. The company in 2019 announced plans to expand to 5 million barrels per day.
Al-Jaber made a splash in the beginning of the summit with an announcement that 50 oil companies had pledged to capture leaking and flaring methane emissions from gas production and pipelines. But the problem is that it’s voluntary, and when industry in general is asked to report its own emissions they underestimate it by about a third, and most of the worst methane emitters weren’t part of the deal, Gore said.
“I want to recall for you that two years ago there was the global methane pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Well, what’s happened? Well, since that pledge was made. Methane emissions have increased almost 2 percent,” Gore said in his public presentation.
“The final problem I have with (the pledge) is that the main issue is phasing out oil and gas production,” Gore said in the interview. “And they don’t do that. And whenever I see a bright, shiny object held up in front of the public and they say ‘look at this, don’t look at the actual emissions from oil and gas, look at the bright, shiny object’ then I think, you know, come on, we’ve been down this road before and it’s way too late to take us for fools.”
“Let’s get on with it. The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis, and we can solve the climate crisis, stop the temperatures going up, start the healing process by phasing out oil and gas,” Gore said. “And I know they don’t want to do it. And I know that it’s really tough. I mean, look, 80 percent of the energy we use in our global economy is from fossil fuels.”
The former vice president said he hopes he’s wrong about al-Jaber and that maybe he can deliver more than others have in the past. But he’s not betting on it.
And because world leaders can’t even agree where next year’s climate talks will be or who will run them, Gore said he has great hope for 2025. That’s because it will be in Brazil and run by leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who Gore said “is raring to go.”
Gore, who says that he is generally is an optimist, said between climate disasters and public pressure, the world is near a “political tipping point.” Climate scientists often use the term “tipping point” for when ecological systems like Arctic sea ice or coral reefs hit a point-of-no-return change.
Gore sees a political version of that approaching.
“We don’t have time to be depressed about it,” Gore said. “You just got to keep fighting. We’ll get there. The question is whether we get there in time, but I think we’ll get there.”
Image credits: AP/Kamran Jebreili