Sheikhs on a plane

15th December 2023 By: Riaan de Lange

Why do bad movies linger in one’s mind? In two words, the answer is 'negative bias', and in three it’s 'positive-negative asymmetry'. According to the researcher Randy Larsen, negative events and experiences not only imprint more quickly but also linger longer than positive ones, which could explain why the movie that should have been Pacific Air Flight 121 has endured (it’s better known to you and me as Snakes on a Plane).

Before stepping off movies, which movie franchise has had the most sequels? A hint – in the words of the gold-obsessed antagonist from the 1964 film, Auric Goldfinger: “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.”

Talking about franchises and dying, from November 30 to December 12, the twenty-eighth yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since 1995 took place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. 007 had 23 outings only since 1962. Delegates to COP travelled from far and wide. Let me rephrase this: delegates flew from far and wide to be in Dubai.

If you want to know the exact number, according to, 97 372 delegates registered to attend the conference in person, while a further 3 074 attended virtually, for a total of 100 446. To put this into perspective, to cater for all the travelling delegates would require 573 A320 flights to Dubai. That is if you are so naïve that you believe all the delegates travelled commercial. For perspective, a private plane generates 100 times more carbon pollution per passenger than a commercial plane. As for the attendance, it was comfortably the largest COP conference in history. So, no cop-out then? It is winter in the northern hemisphere after all. (A cop-out means “avoiding doing something that one ought to do”). So, it had to be done then – flying to Dubai in great numbers to hammer out a global climate agreement, and ultimately save the world from ourselves. As a reminder, the COP events are intended for governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature increases and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.

Turning to trade policies – on December 2, the World Trade Organisation secretariat launched, at COP 28, its trade policy toolkit, called ‘Trade Policy Tools for Climate Action’. The ten-point set of tools aims to present governments with a toolkit to draw from in their efforts to meet global climate targets. The toolkit explores how integrating the available trade policy options can help economies to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to its consequences.

The range of trade policy tools that are available to speed up progress towards climate goals under the Paris Agreement are: 1) Trade facilitation (speeding up customs clearance, (reduce greenhouse-gas emissions associated with inefficient customs procedures and road freight by adopting trade facilitation measures; 2) government procurement opens in a new window (drive lower carbon emissions by using government procurement as a tool); 3) regulations and certification (use international standards to avoid regulatory fragmentation when upgrading energy efficiency regulations); 4) services (accelerate mitigation efforts, support adaptation and assist disaster recovery by reviewing domestic regulations and restrictions for providers of climate-related services); 5) import tariffs (help accelerate the transition to a green economy by rebalancing tariff policies that may inadvertently benefit carbon-intensive sectors); 6) subsidies (unlock additional resources to assist climate action by reforming environmentally harmful support measures); 7) trade finance (support the diffusion of climate-related technologies and equipment by facilitating and increasing trade finance, such as loans and guarantees); 8) food and agriculture (improve how food and agricultural markets function, while contributing to climate action, by easing trade in food); 9) sanitary and phytosanitary measures (protect economies from the spread of disease and pests exacerbated by climate change by strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary systems); and 10) internal taxation and carbon pricing (reduce policy fragmentation and compliance costs by improving coordination of climate-related, non-discriminatory internal taxes, including carbon pricing and equivalent policies).

As the captain in Snakes on the Plane said, “Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the fright”.