RIYADH: OPEC heavyweights said on Sunday oil and gas should not be stigmatised in the climate debate and that the industry had a role to play in an orderly energy transition.

Energy ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, the three largest members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have gathered in the Saudi capital Riyadh for the UN MENA climate week.

“The three of us here as major hydrocarbon producers also have a responsibility to the world to provide the transition with enough hydrocarbon resources to make sure we are transitioning at a responsibly priced manner,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on a panel that grouped the three countries.

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The UAE will host the COP28 climate summit scheduled to take place in Dubai between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.

The summit is an opportunity for governments to try to accelerate action to curb global warming to prevent the most devastating consequences of extreme weather following a year of record temperatures, wildfires and drought.

Reports so far show countries are off track to meet a UN target to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C.

“COP28 will deliver transformational outcomes for this region, and for the world,” Sultan al-Jaber, COP28 president, said in his opening remarks on Sunday.

The choice of Jaber to lead the summit has draw criticism from environmental campaigners because his country is an OPEC member and a major oil exporter, and he is the boss of state oil giant ADNOC.

He has argued for a more inclusive COP that brings the oil and gas industry into the climate debate and allows it to be part of the solution through decarbonisation initiatives.

Ahead of COP28, countries are divided between those demanding a deal to phase out planet-warming fossil fuels, and nations that say coal, oil and natural gas have a continued role combined with technology to capture their emissions.

“We have had 27 COPs, and you might be surprised to learn that 17 of them have been hosted in fossil fuel-producing nations,” Jaber said.

“The fact is, energy is fundamental to everyone, everywhere.”

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also said the industry should not be stigmatised and the world still needed hydrocarbons. “There is a case for us to be in oil and gas,” he told the audience.

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