The president of the UN’s COP28 climate conference may be ‘living in cloud cuckoo land’ – but most of us aren’t much better when it comes to the crisis.
That’s according to Newstalk Breakfast host Shane Coleman who was speaking after Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber claimed there is “no science” suggesting we need to phase out of fossil fuels to restrict global heating to 1.5C.
Under questioning from former Irish President Mary Robinson, Al Jaber also suggested there is no way to sustainably phase out fossil fuels “unless you want to take the world back into caves”.
The sultan oversees the running of the COP28 conference in Dubai but is also the CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company Adnoc.
Rapid reductions in the world’s use of fossil fuels are required to limit spiralling climate change impacts and more than 100 countries currently support a phase-out.
One of the major discussion points at COP28 is whether delegates should call for a ‘phase-out’ or a ‘phase-down’.
'Cloud cuckoo land'
On Newstalk Breakfast, Shane said many of us are hiding from the crisis in much the same way as the sultan.
“I sort of welcome it in a way because I think Sultan Al Jaber is all of us,” he said. “I think none of us actually are realistic about what's required.
“Like, he's living in cloud cuckoo land, but all of us are living in cloud cuckoo land.
“All of us are saying, ‘Yeah, I'm not flying less, I'm not stopping burning coal or briquettes. I'm going to keep driving my car. I'm going to keep building my one-off home’.
“That's all of us, so before we start rolling our eyes and condemning him, are we not all like that? Are we not all Sultan Al Jabers?”
Ciara said COP28 will go down as an “extraordinary” moment – comparing it to allowing Big Tobacco to run a respiratory conference.
“It's like a Trojan horse of climate conferences,” she said.
“I'm not the most ardent of climate activists myself as you well know, but even I was going, ‘This is a kind of a madness that we're having this [conversation].
“But then, the other bit of my brain went, ‘Well, maybe we need to be talking to this guy because we need to be bringing these people who don't believe in it at all with us.”
Ciara said she recognises the climate crisis – but wants to address it through “innovation and technology” rather than punitive measures.
She said Sultan Al Jabir on the other hand “doesn’t even believe we need to get rid of fossil fuels”, adding that he is “way beyond”.
Shane said the sultan, like many people, thinks we can “magic it away with some kind of technology”.
“We all are thinking that; we're all in cloud cuckoo land and that's the reality,” he said. “And it's the future generations that will pay.”