Map of United Arab Emirates

The World Today for December 12, 2023


A Heater in a Fridge in a Desert


An oil man oversaw the United Nations summit on climate change, which ended Tuesday.

Sultan al-Jaber was recently both the president of the 28th UN Conference of Parties (COP28) as well as the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) as delegates to the climate talks met in his native United Arab Emirates from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.

It was an odd juxtaposition that hinted at a conflict of interest, noted climate journalist and non-fiction filmmaker John Sutter on CNN. The sultan’s paycheck depends on greenhouse gases.

As the Telegraph noted, however, the UAE is hardly the poster child for the fight against global warming. The Persian Gulf country is a wealthy petro-state where the rich live wasteful, luxurious lifestyles, it wrote. It hosts a snowy indoor ski slope, for example, where the newspaper found a space heater running shortly before COP28 began.

“It must be one of the only patio heaters in Dubai. It sits on the balcony of a chalet halfway up an indoor ski slope that is kept at a cool -4°C in a country where temperatures reached a record of 49°C last July,” wrote the British newspaper. “It is essentially a heater in the middle of a giant fridge in the middle of the desert.”

The sultan then put his foot in his mouth as host of the world’s preeminent environmental gathering by saying during an online forum that there was “no science” behind efforts to phase out fossil fuels, added Axios. He might have meant that the world has no outstanding plan to finance and build the massive renewable energy infrastructure necessary to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions anytime soon. The American envoy to COP28, John Kerry, “shrugged” off the comments, according to Politico.

But then, many have been shrugging at the choice to pick an oil kingdom to begin with as host of the COP, wrote.

Still, when COP28 opened, the BBC dropped a bombshell, reporting that the sultan was preparing for ADNOC to ramp up production at the same time that COP28 delegates were agreeing on cutting fossil fuel emissions overall. He denied the report, but a cloud hung over his presidency during the proceedings, wrote the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch recently found that air pollution in the UAE was dangerously high, the Guardian reported. The sultan might not have noticed because migrants who represent 88 percent of the UAE’s population are the ones who work outside.

During the conference, environmentalists complained that the conference has become a big “lobby fest,” and grown so large it’s not getting much done anymore. A record 84,000 people are in attendance at COP28 in Dubai, in part because of a large influx of business executives and lobbyists, the Washington Post wrote. That’s in contrast to 1995, when it was a small summit that attracted fewer than 4,000 diplomats and scientists.

This year, the main breakthrough touted by negotiators at the summit was an agreement on a “loss and damage fund” to compensate the Global South, which did little to cause the climate crisis, for the pain and suffering they are experiencing from changing weather patterns, storms and other problems.

While many hailed the agreement as finally hearing the pleas of poor and vulnerable countries, others said the math doesn’t add up: The $700 million pledged by wealthy nations most responsible covers less than 0.2 percent of the estimated minimum of $100 billion needed every year.

Other agreements included the creation of a $30 billion, private market green investment fund, an agreement by 50 oil companies to advance decarbonization across the hydrocarbon industry, and a pledge by 119 countries to triple their renewable energy use.

Still, many are looking ahead now.

Next year, an East European country is supposed to host COP29. But disputes between Russia and the European Union have prevented the bloc from deciding on where to hold their next conference, explained Reuters.

That might suit many in the oil industry just fine.

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