Dec 5, 2023 - World

Gore rails against COP28 president: Don't "try to mansplain" climate activist Robinson

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former Vice President Al Gore railed against COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber on Tuesday after a leaked video showed the UAE climate envoy telling former Republic of Ireland President Mary Robinson there's "no science" behind the push to phase out fossil fuels.

What he's saying: "Do not ever try to mansplain to Mary Robinson — it doesn't work," Gore said at an Axios event on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai.

  • Gore called Al-Jaber, who is also the CEO of state oil firm ADNOC, a "very nice ... and very smart" person, but criticized the UAE's decision to name him the leader of COP28.
  • "I just think [the decision is] disrespectful of the world public to undermine the trust that people ought to be able to have in the integrity of this process," he said.
  • Gore added that he finds it "abusive of public trust" that "the person in charge of organizing this entire exercise in a way that assists the global community in safeguarding humanity's future by reducing the spewing of all this heat-trapping gas into the sky would be the same person who is assiduously preparing one of the most aggressive expansions of more and more fossil fuel production."

The big picture: Al-Jaber has drawn criticism — including from Gore — since being named the leader of the COP28 talks.

  • But that criticism was amplified earlier this week after The Guardian published a leaked video of al-Jaber making the comments to Robinson, a long-time climate activist, at the SHE Changes Climate online event.
  • Joyce Kimutai, the principal meteorologist and climate scientist at the Kenya Meteorology Department, referred to the controversy and addressed political leaders' lack of action more generally during a separate interview at Tuesday's Axios event in Dubai.
  • "I wish when they say they understood the science, they meant it," Kimutai told Axios. "To me, there's been more talk than action," she said.
  • "[I]t's just time that we phase out fossil fuels," she added. "That is my honest opinion as a scientist. It may not be politically correct, but I don't think we need political correctness now because people are really, really suffering."

Al-Jaber said at a press conference this week that he has "incredible respect for Mary Robinson and have a great deal of respect for everything she has been able to accomplish and achieve over the years."

  • "In fact, I was very honored to receive her invitation to participate and speak in a discussion around climate and gender," he added.

Zoom in: Speaking to Axios, Gore also provided more details on his call to reform the COP process.

  • He explained that the consensus-based approach gives outsized influence to major oil and gas-producing countries that favor a slower transition to renewables. He specifically pointed to Saudi Arabia, which has a long history of objecting to more aggressive COP decisions.

What to watch: Gore said he plans to make a push for changes, which would involve altering the COP rules governing how these meetings are run.

  • "I'm hoping [at the end of COP28] there is enough outrage around the world at the obscene structure" of the conference's decision-making process "with the reported use of the preparatory meetings to sell more oil and gas," Gore said.
  • He was referring to a BBC and Centre for Climate Reporting report, published last week, that alleged the UAE planned to discuss striking oil and gas deals with other governments at the climate summit. Al-Jaber has rejected the allegation as "false" and called it "an attempt to undermine" his work.

More from Axios' events in Dubai:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with al-Jaber's comments.

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