Flying High, to Dubai
As the bombing of Gaza recommences and eulogies for Henry Kissinger rain down, something called COP 28 kicks-off in Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and one of the world’s top ten oil producers. Three unelected leaders from Britain flew out for the event, Rishi Sunak, our unelected Prime Minister. David Cameron, our unelected and unaccountable Foreign Secretary who sits in the House of Lords, and our new King, Charles, all flew out on private jets. It’s not clear whether Lord Cameron used “Cam Force One” – the former RAF jet given a refit when the foreign secretary was still prime minister. Almost £1m was spent painting it red, white and blue at Boris Johnson’s request in 2020.
In the face of widespread criticism of the hypocrisy and waste a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “We are not anti-flying. We do not seek to restrict the public from doing so and it’s important the UK has strong attendance at Cop28, given we continue to be a world leader in tackling climate change.”
Back in August it was revealed that Rishi Sunak has taken a taxpayer-funded private flights for travel in the UK once every eight days since he has been at No 10. He even used a RAF flight to Scotland to announce new oil and gas licenses. I mean, if you’re going to announce new oil and gas and announce yourself a ‘world leader in tackling climate change’ you might as well?
As I travelled to work this morning, on a packed-like-sardines train of two carriages into Scotland’s nominal capital, BBC Scotland’s ‘Environment, Energy & Correspondent’ explains solemnly that our feudal monarch will be giving the opening address in Dubai. The president of Cop28 is Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
King Charles we’re told will give a “call to arms” in his Cop28 climate summit opening statement, Rishi Sunak has said, expressing delight over the monarch’s record championing the issue. Sunak said it was a “proud moment” for him to witness Charles deliver his speech on Friday, which “speaks volumes about our type of leadership as a country”.
It really does.
Unfortunately, according to leaked documents, Sultan Al Jaber plans to use climate meetings with other countries to promote deals for its national oil and gas companies.
I mean, why wouldn’t he, that’s literally his job?
The briefings, first reported by the BBC, include talking points for 15 countries which state that Adnoc wants to work with those nations to extract their oil and gas resources.
For China, Adnoc says it is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia, while the briefing proposes telling Colombia that Adnoc “stands ready” to help develop its oil and gas reserves. Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that the world already has plans to exploit far more fossil fuel reserves than can safely be burned and that no new fossil fuel projects can go ahead.
This isn’t so much gaslighting as oil-spilling, it’s a crime against humanity and nature and an attack on future generations. It’s not disingenuous, it’s done in plain-sight and it’s asking you to suspend your disbelief and any critical voices are quickly turned on. If you listen closely you will go mad: “We are not anti-flying. We do not seek to restrict the public from doing so and it’s important the UK has strong attendance at Cop28, given we continue to be a world leader in tackling climate change …”
Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho (she’s the one who tirelessly fought to abolish a meat tax that didn’t actually exist) is asked on radio: “You’re saying there’s no inconsistency between you and the PM at #COP28 trying to produce policies to phase out oil, at the same time as increasing the amount that is removed from the North Sea?” Her response is indistinguishable from a Rosie Holt sketch.
It’s difficult to process this without a sense of bereavement and a profound sense of disorientation. The process we are presented with is so absurd and yet here we are. The media coverage continues, acres of newsprint and pixelated digital scroll goes on and on about the process, even though by any objective standard it is just a constant stream of lies and gibberish.
The process of absorbing this level of disinformation and gaslighting raises questions for us all.
What is the world that is being born out of this madness? How does Reason operate in a world this dysfunctional? How do you ‘survive’ this amount of deception? What are the coping methods other than complete withdrawal or what has been called ‘reflective impotence’? How do you maintain a sense of self and a sense of order in a world of such profound disorder and uncertainty? What is ‘Reasonable’ in such an unreasonable (and becoming unrecognisable) world?
The answer is mostly not to ask these questions – and certainly not attempt to answer them. The answer is mostly to pretend that none of this happening at all.
These contradictions, this absurdity is reaching a peak at COP28.
As I write the speeches are spooling out from Dubai.
King Charles the Third has a line which says: “The Earth does not belong to us”. It’s a line laden with such unspoken and bitter irony you wonder if anyone will tell him? It may be a good summit for Charles, and maybe for Sunak and Cameron too. It’s likely to be a big success for Sultan Al Jaber and Adnoc too. The journalist Ruth Michaelson has written about how Dubia is using the summit to improve it’s ‘brand’:
“Last year, shortly after Cop27 ended, the board of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) voted to bring forward their planned 5m barrel a day oil production capacity expansion to 2027, three years ahead of schedule. In July, it reached 4.5m barrels a day”.
Dubai’s image, Michaelson explains is directly linked to ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sometimes referred to as MBR, who recently used his platform of 8.4m Instagram followers to post news of developments like his decision to launch “flying taxis” in Dubai by 2026.
She continues: “Mohammed bin Rashid is also known for his love of horse racing as well as for fathering 30 children with six different wives. His rule has also been marked by scandals involving kidnap and abuse, including of his daughter Sheikha Latifa who attempted to flee Dubai by boat in 2018, and his now ex-wife princess Haya, who fled to the UK in 2019 where she last year won a legal battle to prevent his contact with his children over what a judge termed his “abusive behaviour”. A UK family court ruled in 2020 that the Dubai ruler orchestrated the abductions of two of his children, including one from the streets of Cambridge.”
His regime is a highly sophisticated surveillance state where political parties are banned and any dissent is stifled, with many prominent human rights defenders imprisoned or having fled the country. In all of the coverage of the COP I haven’t heard any mention of the state of democracy in its host nation. But then, why should we? Who cares? We have given the role of host to the climate conference to a petrostate, and then we have been shocked when they have used the opportunity to do oil deals. Why should we moan about the lack of democracy in the UAE when we fly King Charles the Third and his ministers to the event?
As Rishi Sunak has said Charles speech on Friday “speaks volumes about our type of leadership as a country”.