EDITORIAL: She Said He Said

The one thing you hope for when the nations of the world, most of them anyway, gather for a United Nations climate conference, is that they at least make an effort to appear to be going Meow off the same page.

Yes, trying to get the nations of the world to agree on climate change and what to do about it is like herding cats.

The current gathering, in hot and smoggy Dubai, has been an especially difficult act of herding, not least because of words uttered within the earshot of former Irish president and now global climate activist Mary Robinson.

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The president of the conference, dubbed Cop28, stated that there was no science behind claims that phasing out fossil fuels will help stave off global warming.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, according to reports, claimed there was no proof showing a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

He told Mary Robinson in a video talk that the phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves."

The video meeting, which took place in the weeks before the climate summit, was published by The Guardian newspaper and the Centre for Climate Reporting.

Robinson's response in part: “We’re in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone … and it’s because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel. That is the one decision that Cop28 can take and in many ways, because you’re head of Adnoc [Abu Dhabi National Oil Company], you could actually take it with more credibility.”

The two, Al Jaber and Robinson, went back and forth.

Al Jaber's selection to lead Cop28, which runs until December 12, has drawn criticism from climate activists, who are concerned he will be unable to take the neutral stance required of a Cop president.

As the Guardian reported: "He holds a number of senior government and business positions in the United Arab Emirates, including chief executive of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc). He is also a cabinet minister. The UAE is a major crude producer and a leading member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries."

Never mind the herding cats analogy. This sounds like the old fox in the chicken coop.

Al Jaber said he has “incredible respect” for Mary Robinson but went on to issue the standard defense of being reported “out of context” and “misinterpreted." 

Ah go on out of that!

Still, he added: “I have incredible respect for Mary Robinson and a great deal of respect for everything she has been able to accomplish and achieve over the years. We said clearly and repeatedly that the United Arab Emirates takes this task with humility and responsibility and we fully understand the urgency of this matter.

“We’re here because we very much believe and respect the science.43pc of global emissions must be reduced by 2030. We need to make that happen, to keep 1.5 within reach. I have been crystal clear on the fact that that is a critical success factor if we want to keep 1.5 within reach.”

Politico reported that Al Jaber's initial remarks may require “clarification,” this according to U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

“Look, he's gotta decide how he wants to phrase it, but the bottom line is this COP needs to be committed to phasing out all unabated fossil fuel,” Kerry told Politico’s Power Play podcast with Anne McElvoy. 

The Politico report added: "In addition to al-Jaber’s dismissal of the science supporting a fossil fuel phaseout — a stance climate scientists quickly disputed — the COP28 president has also taken heat for leaked documents indicating the UAE planned to use the summit to push fossil fuel deals, allegations al-Jaber strenuously denied."

No harm in a little heat being taken. Meanwhile, the next climate conference should take place on one of those Pacific islands sinking beneath rising seas. The fossil fuel lobbyists could be housed at the retreating beachfront.