Hello Dubai! As soon as we touched down my phone was blowing up with party invites and I wished I’d have used wi-fi earlier. Now I was going to have to get my assistant to rank the sponsors so I respond to only the very best ones, since the top-tier sponsors are all local (Arab-owned) and mostly unknown to me. The second tier are the HSBC’s and IBM’s—hmm...
I flew in on Emirates because, well, why who wouldn’t? But no chance I was hitching a ride with John Kerry since he tucked his tail between his legs and tried to get away with saying the plane belonged to his wife. He’s never gonna live that down, and frankly I don’t care. It makes us all look bad when we go weak. Either we accept that we need to fly private in order to save the planet or you run around dodging reporters. I’ll research later but Daddy says doublespeak is a thing with him… lobbying to get medals as a soldier and then wanting acceptance as a peacenik by tossing them away. No wonder he’s been branded ‘the cheap aristocrat’.
Time to save the planet!
Lucky for all of us Charles (make that King Charles) is in the house! And we are lucky because he’s not actually supposed to use his regal position to promote anything remotely political but as long as he maintains his humanitarian focus we (and climate change) should be OK. For this I am so grateful.
His opener for Cop28 was fantastic, saying he sees ‘Countless communities whose lives have been laid waste by climate change’. SO POWERFUL! I got shivers. Separately I wonder if he looks around at the other kings and envies them for not having such problems with their children. They sure seem to fall in line—all the Saudi princes are here, in state dress, and not selling their tales to the tabloids.
Still, I am having a tough time squaring the Saudis hosting us in the first place. I’m grateful, but they are an oil-producing empire, so it kind of feels like a turkey voting for Christmas. And I don’t get why they are smiling. Just as I was basking in King Charles’ closing remark… ‘the earth does not belong to us…’ all hell broke loose. I had been in the main lobby sipping mint tea and scrolling my feed when I felt a seismic shift—reporters, sponsors, spectators… all stampeded into the auditorium leaving a trail of plates, cups, and swag.
It was the UAE’s His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, president of Cop28, telling us ‘there is no science indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed’. Hello, what??? And can you cut the mic of a Sultan in these United Emirates? But it only got worse. He then went on to say, ‘a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development unless you want to take the world back into caves’. Caves?! This bordered on Climate Denial and I looked around for that little pest Omid Scobie, Meghan Markle's biographer. Who else would try to topple a movement and a kingdom? But of course it wasn’t him, and no chance he’d be welcome here anyway.
Per my phone, Twitter was starting to list Al Jaber as the CEO of the UAE’s state oil company, Adnoc. Whatever Adnoc stood for, oil was a conflict of interest. I took to Twitter (now X), sharing smiling selfies and tagging the conference. How could this be happening? More than 100 countries already supported a phase-out of fossil fuels, and rapid cuts were needed to bring fossil fuel emissions to zero. I wasn’t quite trending so I added that ‘failure to phase-out was hurting women and children more than anyone’ for the win. My numbers were scrolling upward but not as fast as Al Jaber’s blast that ‘there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C’.
Did he say, "back into caves"?
I’d done what I could and needed a cocktail. Oops. Probably not from any of the UAE sponsors. What to do? I stood outside of the Dubai Holding party wondering if slumming it with Bank of America would mean libations? But this was the place to stay. Just inside I could hear Al Jaber spouting off to a reporter who claimed, ‘I read that your company is investing in a lot more fossil fuel’. To which Al Jaber responded, ‘You’re reading your own media, which is biased and wrong. I am telling you I am the man in charge’. Ouch! I tucked in and pretended not to stare.
He raised his voice and demanded, ‘Show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves’. He wasn’t giving up on the caves narrative. And who better to talk about the move from caves to luxury than he?
In one final blast he shouted, ‘Stop the pointing of fingers! I don’t think you will be able to solve the climate problem by pointing fingers or contributing to polarisation. Show me the solutions and stop it!’ Al Jaber said. The room fell silent. Even my phone stopped buzzing, but I faked a call and split. Sheesh. Forget the conference. Forget it all. If I wanted to hear climate denial I had a father for that. I slipped outside to the rank of idling black SUV’s and said ‘Dubai International, please’. I texted my assistant with four exclamation points. Whether Emirates or private, there was a plane with my name on it.