As someone who has holidayed, more than once, in Dubai, the thought of a couple of weeks in the City of Gold sounds majestic. Presumably minus lying by the pool reading a book with a £15 beer, that is what lies ahead of the delegates at this year’s 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - conveniently for headline writers across the world, known as COP28.

I must confess to an almost immediate sense of dejection at the start of this week, however, when we inevitably began to focus on the location of the COP as opposed to the substance of what it will discuss. It is reasonable to question, and indeed interrogation keeps us fresh and keeps us thinking. First and foremost, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not a democracy. Perhaps more pertinently, it possesses around one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves, and is not afraid to use them, and Dubai Airport is the world’s busiest international airport (with its Abu Dhabi neighbour also a behemoth).

The 70,000 COP delegates will burn plenty of jet fuel over the next fortnight. They’ll be served food and wine by migrant workers who do not enjoy the same freedoms as those in the countries from which they came. And the conference looks as though it will see some side-deals done on hydrocarbon investment.

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So shouldn’t we reject this outright? Isn’t this more of an anti-climate conference rather than a meeting to save the world? "Planet not profit’" and all that. But no, we should not. In fact, those who call for us to put "planet over profit" are sadly the problem, not the solution. We will only solve the climate crisis if we accept that perfection is too often the enemy of good when it comes to climate change. Instead, we need to embrace "profit for planet".

There are, in my view, now two types of environmentalist. There are what we might call fundamentalist environmentalists, who have a strong correlation with the political far left. In general, they believe in an immediate cessation of the use of fossil fuels, the end of global capitalism and a suppression of the movement of goods and people on account of the carbon footprint such movement creates.

Then there are, on the other hand, incrementalist environmentalists, who tend to be more economically centrist capitalists, who believe in the phasing out of fossil fuels as part of an energy transition, and who place their trust in innovation to ensure that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we do today.

Both are largely committed to solving the climate crisis, and it is important as we debate the issue that we do not denigrate the strength of conviction amongst those with whom we do not agree. However, it seems clear to me, having observed the debate for years before becoming involved in it by creating a net zero advisory business, that the only credible position is the latter, incrementalist one, which represents a victory for good over perfection.

The debate may be happening in Dubai today, but it has been happening in Scotland for some time. Scotland is a country of genuine importance when it comes to the energy transition, having had both large reserves of hydrocarbons over the last half-century, and even larger reserves of wind to create renewable energy, including becoming a significant actor in the global trade of green hydrogen.

And yet even here, in a country which should find it relatively easy to understand, we seek anguish in a sea of opportunity. Our own home-grown fundamentalists demand an end to hydrocarbon extraction right now. I want to agree with them; I think anyone who analyses the climate crisis would want to agree with them. However, even a cursory examination of the unintended consequences leads to the inevitable conclusion that we cannot. Scotland has remarkable renewables potential but, largely, that remains potential rather than actual.

The Herald: Nuclear power is not perfect, but it is goodNuclear power is not perfect, but it is good (Image: PA)

A large-scale renewables industry needs time to be built out. It needs more innovation. It needs a supply chain. It needs skilled people. And it needs to be funded by private sector profits. And all of this will come from the companies, the universities, the agencies and the other stakeholders which are currently involved in the fossil fuel industry, and that is why the word "transition" needs more than simply lip service.

Transition is not perfect, but it is good. What else is not perfect, but is good? This week, the UK Government’s Nuclear Minister Andrew Bowie made the case for Scotland to re-engage with nuclear power. The Scottish Government has a fairly strong position against it, but there is a strong sense that it is more ideological than practical, particularly its refusal to consider the case for small modular reactors. Nuclear power is not renewable, but it is clean. It is not perfect, but it is good.

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The same can be said of blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is created from a process of reformation of carbon from natural gas. In other words, it emanates from fossil fuels, unlike green hydrogen, which is created by electrolysis from renewable electricity, primarily wind in Scotland’s case. We do not have green hydrogen at scale yet, and we will not have it at scale for many, many years, but we do and will in the case of blue hydrogen. Indeed, as green hydrogen pioneer Plus Zero (for disclosure, a client of my company) said last week, an embracing of the blue hydrogen industry will help to accelerate the development of the green hydrogen industry. And, yet, Scotland’s heat and buildings strategy rejects blue hydrogen, which could be blended into our existing gas network at no or minimal to homeowners, decarbonising our heating. Blue hydrogen is not perfect. But it is good.

The climate crisis can be solved, but only if we tolerate the need to reject the perfect and accept the good. Only if we accept that the solution lies in incrementalism and in nudging; in transition and innovation; in progress and in profit.

Dubai, far from being the wrong place, seems the perfect place to tolerate it all.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of  Zero Matters