Newly reported comments by COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, which throw cold water on a potential commitment to phase out fossil fuels, were condemned by activists and observers at the U.N. climate summit in Dubai.

Al Jaber’s remarks deepened controversy around the COP28 leader — who is also the chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. — and raised new questions over whether the conference will be able to unite behind a strong pledge targeting the elimination of fossil fuels. Just before the summit started, a BBC story alleged Al Jaber was ready to use COP meetings to discuss oil business, a claim he denies.

The comments "show how entrenched he is in fossil fuel fantasy and is clearly determined that this COP doesn’t do anything to harm the interests of the oil and gas industry,” said Mohamed Adow, director of the advocacy group Power Shift Africa. "These remarks are a wake up call to the world and negotiators at COP28 that they are not going to get any help from the COP presidency in delivering a strong outcome on a fossil fuel phase out.”