COP28 in UAE? It’s like asking Russia to hold a conference on world peace - Vladimir McTavish

Workers prepare an area at the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)Workers prepare an area at the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Workers prepare an area at the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Who on Earth thought that it would be a good idea to hold the COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)?

According to reports on the BBC, UAE ministers have been lobbying delegates attending the conference to take out oil deals with them, as they continue to invest billions of dollars in future oil exploration.

It does seem jaw-droppingly inconsistent for them to be hosting a global conference on climate change.

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Of all the places on Earth, they really ought to take global warming more seriously. Temperatures in the Gulf routinely top 40 degrees Celsius. And that’s according to the official figures.

Anecdotally, they are quite frequently much higher. The real heat is often kept secret, as workers are entitled to take the day off if the mercury tops 40.

Which brings us to the next reason for not allowing the UAE to grandstand on the world stage. Namely their treatment of migrant workers who really suffer in the heat.

I have visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi and been shocked by the working conditions of labourers from India and Africa who are forced to work outdoors in the blazing sun without shade, are transported in buses without air-conditioning, and live in shacks with no protection from the weather.

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Check into any hotel in Dubai, and the first thing that happens is some guy will offer to carry your bags to your room in return for a tip. That is this person’s only source of income.

They can’t tell the company to stick their job where the sun don’t shine. In the Gulf, the sun constantly shines. It beats down relentlessly.

Of course, the UAE are not alone in exploiting immigrants from the poorest parts of the Globe, in working conditions that amount to slavery.

Much was made this time last year about the deaths of migrant workers building the stadiums for the Qatar World Cup. Which should make everyone in Scotland proud of the moral stance taken by our own national football team in boycotting the tournament.

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Admittedly, they did so in a very creative way by playing appallingly against Ukraine. But at least they had a clear conscience at the end of the day.

Having the UAE host COP28 is as ridiculous as asking Saudi Arabia to hold a global seminar on human rights, Russia holding a conference on world peace, or Uganda hosting a Pride rally.

A few years ago, I was asked to go to Kuwait to entertain British ex-pats working out there where the laws are very strict. Alcohol is illegal, gambling is against the law, as is eating pork.

The Brits managed to get around the booze ban by drinking neat ethanol and seemed to be OK with missing out on their annual flutter on the Grand National, but they really missed their pork.

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Before we left home, the guy promoting the shows sent all of us comedians an e-mail asking us if we could smuggle some pork pies into Kuwait. Friends who have heard this anecdote often express amusement at that idea. Until I point out that it is somewhat uncomfortable fitting six pork pies into a condom and trying to ram them up your back passage.

I wonder if any of the delegates at COP28 received a similar request.

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