Climate movement must switch on to UAE threat

Climate movement must switch on to UAE threat

In a recent address to global climate envoys, the Emirati President of Cop28 Sultan Al Jaber proclaimed that the United Arab Emirates had “embraced the energy transition.”

The speech was the fore-runner to the start of a typically slick public relations campaign, with the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change Mariam Almheiri telling Reuters that the world is not ready to “switch off” fossil fuels.

If there are any within the climate movement holding out hopes for the UAE’s approach to climate change, this is the moment to start paying attention to its record as a profoundly regressive and dangerous actor in global affairs.

The reality – not always immediately obvious to those engaging with the UAE for the first time – is that it is a borderline totalitarian state whose power and influence is rooted in the extraction of fossil fuels.

A little over a decade ago, the UAE launched an aggressive campaign to quash domestic dissent while it funded and supported counter-revolutions across the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

I was one of many many human rights researchers blacklisted from the country, and we watched in dismay as the UAE’s sleek public relations, disinformation and robust diplomacy cowed the international community into meek submission, leaving it free to export its ruinous model of ‘authoritarian stability’.

This week, the UAE made headlines by inviting the murderous Bashar al-Assad to Cop28, a welcome embrace for the Syrian regime that Abu Dhabi has been moving closer to for some years.

The UAE will be as fierce in its opposition to climate justice as it has been in its opposition to the most basic human rights. We are already seeing how they will deploy the same tactics to scupper it.

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Photo: Greenpeace/John Novis)

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