Dubai chokes on smog and hot air

Dubai chokes on smog and hot air

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GOOD MONDAY MORNING from COP28 in Dubai, where almost 200 countries and representations have gathered in a desperate bid to keep the world’s climate targets on track.

POLITICIANS, THEY’RE JUST LIKE US! Even world leaders get star-struck and anxious. Selfie of the weekend goes to far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who snapped a positively giddy pic of herself with Indian leader Narendra Modi. Playbook is still trying to psychoanalyze her phone case — a white plastic number covered with “Affirmations for Anxiety.”

BETTER PACK A FACE MASK: In a reminder of just how much danger the world is in, a thick blanket of hazy smog smothered Dubai Sunday as most world leaders jetted off — not a good look for the oil-rich host country. The level of pollution in UAE was classified as “unhealthy” by, a real-time pollution tracker.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PUT AN OIL BARON IN CHARGE OF CLIMATE TALKS: COP chief Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who also leads the Abu Dhabi National Oil company, insists there’s no science showing that a phaseout of fossil fuels is necessary to limit global heating to 1.5C above preindustrial levels. He made the comments in a tetchy exchange with former U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Mary Robinson at a private meeting, the Guardian reports in the latest bombshell highlighting the risk of having an oil producer preside over the COP talks.

**A message from SSE: Actions, not ambitions are what’s needed to secure our energy future, right now. That’s why we’re delivering thousands of green jobs to ensure the energy transition is a just and fair one for workers, consumers and communities. SSE. We power change. Find out more.**

Sounds about right: My colleague Karl Mathiesen spoke to others who’ve met with al-Jaber and found his private comments about the future of fossil fuels curious, to say the least. An industrialist said the COP28 president had told him “you can’t stop progress” in reference to winding back the fuels that still make up 30 percent of the UAE’s gross domestic product.

BAD OPTICS KEEP ON COMIN’: In another PR headache for Dubai, Al Gore’s Climate TRACE released a ton of new data mapping exactly where global emissions come from on Saturday, POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper reports.

The most polluting airport? “The one most of us flew into this week,” Climate TRACE co-founder Gavin McCormick told attendees. Yup, here’s looking at you Dubai.

BUT IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM: Leaders made progress on some key areas over the weekend. For those of you who were at the beach, Playbook’ll bring you up to speed.


SWEEPING PLEDGES: Leaders jetted home with at least some wins to show for their Dubai dashes: a pledge by oil and gas companies to reduce emissions, and a commitment by 118 countries to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy savings efforts.

Greenwashing accusations: But as POLITICO’s eagle-eyed energy and climate team on the ground here in Dubai reports, none of the pledges mention fossil fuel use. The declarations were “an impressive and ambitious reveal,” write Zia Weise and Charlie Cooper. “But many climate-vulnerable countries and non-government groups instantly cast an arched eyebrow toward the whole endeavor.”

Methane moves are a load of hot air: The U.S. unveiled new restrictions on methane emissions for its oil and gas sector on Saturday. (Reminder: Methane is the second-biggest driver of climate change, after carbon dioxide.) But Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for a “global methane agreement” instead, warning that voluntary efforts hadn’t worked. 

MOVING TARGET: Meanwhile, researchers delivered a striking dose of reality on Sunday, saying it is “becoming inevitable” that countries will miss the ambitious target they set eight years ago for limiting the warming of the Earth. The growing likelihood is that global warming will shoot past 1.5C before the end of this century, scientists said. Chelsea Harvey has more here.

JET SHARING IS CARING: Still, it’s good to see some political players taking the climate crisis seriously and ride-sharing. German Cabinet Minister ​​Svenja Schulze got a lift from Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Berlin (H/t Zia Weise). Though they were all smiles on board, let’s see if the bonhomie lasts, given the EU’s long-running trade negotiations with the four Mercosur countries Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina — a central topic of conversation during Lula’s visit to Germany — are on shaky ground.

O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL: Pope Francis may have been too sick to come to COP in person, but he still kicked off the inauguration of the first-ever Faith Pavilion via video-link Sunday. The center, in a suitably celestial white building along one of the main avenues in the Blue Zone, is the first to mark the contribution of the faithful to the climate crisis.

Spotted at the Faith Pavilion: The UAE’s intriguingly titled Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.


SHOW ME THE MONEY: Today is Finance Day at COP, with swarms of private and public bankers descending on Dubai to talk money and do deals, amid serious questions about how the climate transition will be financed.

WHO’S HERE: Among the top brass we’ve spotted: Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Lloyds Bank chief Charlie Nunn, HSBC chief Noel Quinn, IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, World Bank President Ajay Banga, President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina, European Investment Bank chief Werner Hoyer, and Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing

REPRESENTING THE UNDERREPRESENTED: Make sure you swing by the Canadian Pavilion, which is hosting its Indigenous Climate Leadership Day today. The sessions aim to highlight how indigenous and first nations communities are impacted by climate change and loss of land and resources — even as they are often the stewards of fragile ecosystems. 

Unfair burden: Narungga Kaurna woman Janine Mohamed is the head of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. “We will be the most affected by climate change and yet we have contributed the least to climate change,” she said, noting that the unaddressed inequities when it comes to health, for example, are compounded by the crisis.


CLINTON WATCH: Sunday was Health Day at COP, with some of the biggest names in politics holding events. Hillary and Chelsea Clinton pushed a key priority of the Clinton Global Initiative — the nexus between climate and health. “Climate and health are inextricably linked,” Chelsea Clinton told Global Playbook following her event at the UNFCCC Pavilion. “We have to better protect people’s health today. Thankfully, we know a lot about how to do that — we need more investment and partnership across all sectors to scale proven solutions and to deploy into research and innovation.”

GET WELL SOON! Meanwhile, Vanessa Kerry — a physician, the founder of Seed Global Health, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for climate change and health, and of course the daughter of a certain climate envoy, was forced to cancel her trip to COP due to emergency knee surgery. 

WFH: Nonetheless, Kerry has been watching events closely from afar. Speaking to Playbook, she described the inaugural COP Health Day as a “strong start to the work we must do to tackle the climate and health crisis.”

Not loving the recycled spending pledges: While funding announcements were welcome, “we must be candid whether this is new and more money or recycled pledged dollars,” Kerry told us. “We are already behind in our response and we cannot afford to delay meaningful action any longer.” 


HOT TIP FOR THE SWEATY MASSES: If you’re racing to the Expo from an overnight flight, or need to freshen up after a day of trudging through the pavilions in sweltering heat, Playbook has some news you can use: There are free showers at the visitors’ center.

FANCY A CUPPA? If you love a brew, pop into the Sri Lanka Pavilion. On offer are teas from Sri Lanka’s seven different regions, all with their own unique leaves and production techniques. Nuwara Eliya is Playbook’s top pick.

PROTEST ZONE: Protests have been pretty muted at this COP so far. On Sunday, a group calling for a cease-fire in the Middle East read out the names of all Palestinians killed so far in the current conflict (though not the names of the Israelis killed by Hamas).

No protest zone: But one group which didn’t get its request for a protest permit approved is Eak. The group says it was blocked from holding a “visual” demonstration in the Green Zone that would have slammed Emirates, the UAE’s national airline, for its emissions record and for not contributing to the Loss and Damage Fund. Reminder: As the host country, the UAE controls the Green Zone, while the U.N. has oversight of the Blue Zone.

PLAYBOOK PRIZE FOR MOST PREPPY CONTINGENT: The Yale School of the Environment brought a dash of New England style to Dubai, with students dressed in full suits and college ties hanging in the Resilience Hub. All very Good Will Hunting.


— At Goal’s House night cap at CEMENT, Friday: U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry, U.K. Labour Party leader (and front-runner to become next prime minister) Keir Starmer, fashion designer Stella McCartney, U.N. envoy Mark Carney, Bank of America chief Brian Moynihan, Lloyd’s chief exec Charlie Nunn, Irish leader Leo Varadkar, Freuds CEO Arlo Brady, Google’s Ruth Porat, U.K. Shadow Climate and Net-Zero Secretary Ed Miliband.

— At Time Magazine’s reception at Burj Khalifa, Saturday night: Chelsea Clinton, Shyla Raghav, Peter Sands of the Global Fund, Naveen Rao, Martin Edlund, chief executive of Malaria No More.

— At Covington’s Beachfront Reception at Jumeirah Hotel, Sunday: David Livingston, senior adviser to John Kerry, Richard Mintz, FGS Global, Washington Post’s Susannah George, Cristina Talacko, Coalition for Conservation, Sebastian Vos, Covington, Simon Wolfe, Marlow Global, Rob D’ambrosio, Greentech United; Benjamin Windell, KONE, Prajna Khanna, Prosus and Naspers.

NOT SPOTTED: WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who failed to show up to a Clinton Health Access Initiative event at the UNFCCC Pavilion Sunday.


— Bloomberg Green, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel Dubai, 8 a.m. Speakers include: Ali Zaidi, White House national climate adviser, Shemara Wikramanayake, managing director and CEO, Macquarie Group, Princess Lamia bint Majed Al Saud, Alwaleed Philanthropies. 

— Business Roundtable and the European Roundtable for Industry event, 3 p.m. Climate Action Innovation Zone, Madinat Jumeirah Conference Center. Speakers include Miguel López, CEO, Thyssenkrupp, Rebecca Kujawa, president and CEO, NextEra Energy Resources, Rich Lesser, Global Chair, BCG, Ignacio Galán, Executive Chair, Iberdrola.

— “Rising above the heat: forging women-led solutions to heat stress,” Resilience Hub, 10:30 a.m. Hillary Clinton delivers remarks. 

— “Green Finances: Unlocking Potential in the Private/Energy Sector through Green Decarbonization Financing,” 9:15 a.m. Ukrainian Pavilion. Speakers include: European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Geoffrey Pyatt, United States assistant secretary of state for energy resources, Ditte Juul Jørgensen, director general for energy of the European Commission, Maxim Timchenko, CEO of DTEK.

— “Available, Accessible and Affordable — Towards a Financial Architecture that Delivers for All,” Al Waha Theater, 1:30 p.m. World Bank President Ajay Banga, EIB chief Werner Hoyer, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, Odile Renaud-Basso of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

— “Women Building a Climate-Resilient World,” 2:30 p.m., Plenary 2, DEC South, Blue Zone. Speakers include: U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Padma Lakshmi, U.N. Development Program Goodwill Ambassador, UAE Minister of Climate and Environment, Mariam Almhieri, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.

— COP28 Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes Launch Event, 6:30 p.m. at the Al Waha Theater, Blue Zone.

— “Scale Up to Phase Out,” event by E3F (Export Finance for Future coalition), 11:45 a.m., Danish Pavilion.

— “Building Africa’s Carbon Economy: Creating an enabling environment for carbon stakeholders, community involvement, and new investment into Africa,” 10 a.m., Gabon Pavilion, Blue Zone.

Female Quotient, Equality Lounge, from 9 a.m., DMCC, Uptown Tower.


HOT IN DUBAI: Get in touch with any tips and party invitations.

THANKS TO: Zia WeiseCharlie CooperKarl Mathiesen, Sara Schonhardt, Jack LahartSeb Starcevic.

Global Playbook couldn’t happen without Global Playbook Editor Zoya Sheftalovich.

**A message from SSE: The race is on: for green growth, for net zero, for energy security. We need to be bold, today. Climate change is a global challenge and at COP28, we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with the decision-makers driving a faster transition to net zero. At SSE, we’re building the world’s largest offshore wind farm to power over 6 million homes a year. We’re connecting renewable energy, households, and businesses, to a greener grid. We’re pioneering low-carbon technologies. And we’re creating 1000s of sustainable jobs. We’re delivering future energy systems, today. SSE. We power change. Find out more.**

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