A representative of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) flamed out on basic science during the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, after Canadian climate campaigner Emily Lowan confronted him outside a Sunday afternoon event the global oil cartel had organized for COP28 youth delegates.
Lowan, fossil fuel supply campaigns lead at Climate Action Network-Canada, caught up with Hasan Alhamadi—alternately described online as the OPEC Secretariat’s head of public relations, the cartel’s head of administration and IT services, or a support services manager with Kuwait Petroleum International—after a “fireside chat” on the role of youth in the global oil and gas industry.
Days before, with the push for a fossil fuel phaseout gaining support from more than 100 countries and becoming a dominant discussion point at the COP, OPEC had warned its members and allied nations with “utmost urgency” that “pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences.” It urged petro-states to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy, ie fossil fuels, rather than emissions.”
On Sunday, after what she described as a “lie-laden” breakout session, Lowan asked Hamadi about countries like Canada that are “ravaged by wildfires every single year.” Hamadi replied: “This has nothing to do with oil. How does it have to do with oil?”
Another youth delegate asked Hamadi whether he assumed oil is the only energy solution. “Right now, yes,” he declared. “Give me an alternative.” Solar, he maintained, “is too expensive for people, and no one would like to invest there.”
The exchange set off a quick flurry of fact-checking, with climate hawks pointing to an attribution study earlier this year that identified 88 fossil fuel and cement companies responsible for 37% of the wildfire losses in the western regions of Canada and the United States over a 35-year period. An analysis published late last week found that solar is now 29% less expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel option, and the International Energy Agency reported in May that investors will pour more money into clean energy than fossil fuels this year for the fourth year in a row.
During the OPEC youth session, a group of about a dozen 350.org youth delegates staged a sit-in at the OPEC pavilion to deliver a succinct message in response to the cartel’s letter to its members: “Your time is over.”
“This is supposed to be the most inclusive COP ever,” a spokesperson said. “It seems like it’s been very inclusive of fossil fuel lobbyists,” with nearly 5,000 of them flooding the negotiations since the COP opened November 30.