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It is easy to criticise people and organisations in a blog. I know there are two sides to every story, and don’t want to be one of those ‘keyboard warriors’ who anonymously abuses all and sundry. So, with many thanks to Sarah Reay of ICAEW, who took time out from her busy schedule running their Climate Summit to explain their position on the invitation issued to a member of the UAE COP27 delegation to present the COP27 session. So, by way of right to reply, I publish Sarah’s answer verbatim:

“Dear Mark,

Thank you for your email. It is great to see such engagement with the content of this year’s ICAEW Climate Summit. I am copying your original question here just as a reference point “Why did the ICAEW see fit to invite to make the Climate Summit presentation a representative of the country delegation which sent a record 70 fossil fuel industry linked delegates to COP27, 6 times more than any other country if we ignore the pariah state that is Russia, and how did the Institute expect to obtain an unbiased view of the Summit and its underwhelming results from a person whose delegation and its’ fellow travellers no doubt made a significant contribution to the Summit’s failure?”

When pulling together the opening session of the Summit in which Dr Vinke discussed COP27, we wanted to draw on her experience as a chartered accountant and ICAEW member to share her insights from her time at COP27. It is rare that our members sit at the heart of these global climate discussions and thought the audience would enjoy hearing from a fellow member.

On your point about having a representative from the UAE delegation, we felt that, as all UN members are invited to COP we equally should not be in the business of excluding anyone. The intention of key conferences such as the COPs is to bring parties from every country and engage with entities, including polluters, on the important issue of climate change. We are not denying that they have made contributions to the climate crisis but also note they need to contribute to mitigating and adapting to this. If we were to have a blanket ban on speakers from high emitting countries, we would then have to disengage from many western economies/those in the global north, such as the US for example.

In addition, we felt it wouldn’t be right to assume that simply because she works within the UAE, that Dr Vinke’s opinion and insights are invalid or not to be listened to. Instead shouldn’t we be prepared to listen to those and engage with them in open forum?

In terms of the content of the session, Dr Vinke noted that she was part of the delegation to focus on the finance, which has become a key part of the COP. As we both know, the transition to net zero, adapting to climate change and the big issue of loss and damage cannot be tackled without funding mechanisms and the finance to invest in these areas. This was discussed in the session as this is most relevant to the membership watching.”

Best wishes,


Climate Change Executive


The text of my reply was as follows:

“Dear Sarah

Many thanks for your comprehensive and frank reply, which is greatly appreciated.

I understand the thought process of involving an ICAEW member – absolutely nothing against Dr Vinke personally, I thought she came across well as a personality, although I also thought she did not really engage in any meaningful way with some of the failures of COP27, and I have to say that the obvious conclusion to draw in that respect is that she was in a somewhat conflicted position as a member of an oil state delegation, particularly one so heavily biased toward fossil fuel representation.

I hear what you say about engagement with high polluting countries, and I agree with this sentiment. I have to say that I am highly sceptical of the idea that the UAE sent 70 fossil fuel industry representatives in order to engage meaningfully with side lining their own industry in favour of renewable energy sources. I think it is fair to say that the oil industry in particular has a pretty awful record in terms of environmental performance, and whilst I would love to think that fossil fuel businesses would voluntarily switch from being part of the problem to being part of the solution, I see precious few signs of that in practice. They are in a highly lucrative business which is under existential threat, and human nature suggests that they will look to protect their position so far as possible. Hence, I think the massive attendance of fossil fuel representatives at COP27.

My problem with the UAE was the fact that they were by such a distance the delegation with the largest fossil fuel industry representation – if we discount Russia with 33 (less than half the UAE numbers) the next country was Kenya with 12, so just over one-sixth of the UAE representation. So, we were not just engaging with a major contributor to the rather sinister presence of 600+ fossil fuel representatives, but the major contributor, with over 10% of that total, and at that the major contributor of almost 200 countries in attendance, which is an extreme position to be in.

As I said above, I agree that engagement with all participants in the COP process is to be encouraged, but I felt that the elephant in the room of this session was not addressed, and indeed to be fair to Dr Vinke, that meant that she was not given an opportunity to explain why the delegation was constituted as it was, I would have raised the issue had I been aware of it at that point, but I only saw the COP27 attendance details on Tuesday (yesterday) evening. That rather left her in a position to be shot at with no opportunity to defend herself, and I acknowledge that I fired the first shot!

I also hear what you say with regard to Dr Vinke’s role at COP27, but I have a problem with the priorities implied by your response in this respect, although I accept that this comes from my personal, arguably extreme, position. In my view it is crystal clear that the aspect of most concern to any human being, involved in the session or not, should be whether our children and grandchildren are going to have an inhabitable planet to live on rather than the specific financial discussions, particularly as the latter tend to be fairly nebulous at COPs given the large number of countries involved. If we are honest the main positive function of COPs is to publicise climate change and place it in the headlines where it belongs; other than that, they tend to be a stage for political grandstanding and lots more talking the talk than walking the walk. COPs alone will not be the solution to the problem, or even close to it.

I congratulate you on your spirited and well-argued defence of the ICAEW’s position in this respect, even if there remain some points on which we differ. I also have to say that this issue pales into insignificance compared to the atrocity which is the Sustainability Certificate, about which I have entered into separate correspondence with Andrea Cook, and which I fear I will tear into in Friday’s session barring a very convincing response from Andrea. Unlike this case, I cannot see how she might do that, but we shall see.


To end on a positive note, in my view the Summit has in general been very good, and the fact that a couple of aspects have attracted my ire does not detract from my overall positive feelings about the initiative. I have made very useful contacts with two delegates (names omitted for this specific purpose) as a result, which alone make the exercise worthwhile. Thank you for your part in organising the event, and please be assured that I only raise issues because I care so very much.

Best wishes

Mark Simpson

The Green Accountants

Big Hand Group”

Which leads me neatly onto my next post, on the atrocity which is the ICAEW Sustainability Certificate. Again, I have received the courtesy of a prompt reply from ICAEW, which I will again publish in full in the interests of the right to reply.

By |November 24th, 2022|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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