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Some of the thousands of residents and tourists who descended upon the COP28 venue, the Expo City Dubai. Image Credit: Anjana Kumar | Gulf News

Dubai: Witness the spectacle of tourists and residents reveling in the drama of COP28 in Dubai. As the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC has thrown its doors open to the public, this resulted in an overwhelming surge of visitors clamouring to experience the wonders of the Green Zone.

On the inaugural day of the Green Zone’s public opening at the UN climate conference, a huge wave of thousands of residents and tourists descended upon the COP28 venue, the Expo City Dubai.

The public Green Zone, distinct from the exclusive Blue Zone reserved for delegates, features environment-themed displays, talks, and shows accessible to the wider community through free one-day Green Zone passes obtained after online registration.

Pledge before ghaf tree

Within the Green Zone’s Energy Hub stands the awe-inspiring Tree of Life, where visitors can pledge alongside an Artificial Intelligence-powered Ghaf tree, the resilient national tree of the UAE, symbolising environmental sustainability.

Taking advantage of the extended weekend due to Union Day, a throng of visitors besieged the venue, eager to uncover the treasures that COP28 had to offer.

However, drama unfolded as unprecedented public interest led to the closure of Green Zone passes for December 3 the previous night.

Extraordinary demand

Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi, the director general of COP28, confirmed the closure, stating, “Due to the extraordinary demand, all Green Zone day passes have been issued, and we closed our ticketing portal at 7 pm last night due to the exceptional interest.”

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Amidst this frenzy, Russian expats Ekaterina Avtushenko and Fedor Bondar were determined not to miss the COP28 experience. Inspired by their visit to the Knowledge Hub, the couple pledged to reduce waste and recycle more to conserve energy.

As stories unfolded within the COP28 arena, the Hamilton family from Australia, en-route from the UK to Australia, found themselves captivated by the innovative displays on sustainability.

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The Laughton family from Britain echoed similar sentiments, expressing their enthusiasm for making conscious decisions at home after their exploration of COP28.

400,000 visitors registered

On the eve of the opening day of COP28, COP President Dr Sultan Al Jaber had said that more than 400,000 visitors had registered for the free one day passes to the Green Zone.

Russian expats Ekaterina Avtushenko, 30 and Fedor Bondar, 31, did not want to miss out on their visit to COP28. Inspired by their visit so far to the Knowledge Hub, the couple said they will reduce waste and re-cycle more and vowed to conserve energy.

Avtushenko was also very impressed with the local farm produce. “I was always curious as to how this desert land produced vegetables and fruits. Now it was made very clear to me.”

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Australian family Gemma Hamilton , 40, John Pharaoh, 47, and their seven-month-old baby were at COP28. “We are en-route to Australia from the UK and we decided to take a break in Dubai. The COP28 is on and we thought of visiting the Expo City Dubai,” said Pharaoh.

He added: “We are very impressed with the number of innovations on sustainability displayed at COP28. One of our biggest take away from the event is that we will be more mindful of the food to eat. The focus will be to eat sustainably sourced food.

British family Katherine Laughton, 36, Freddie Laughton, 37 and their children Bertie (8), Theo (6), Barney (2) were thrilled to be exploring the 2023 edition of the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC. “It’s been a great day exploring. We all are making some conscious decisions at home after our visit to COP 28,” said Katherine.

Her husband Freddie added: “The children have been thrilled to see the exhibits at COP28. It is no more about changing everything in our lives but about what is easy for us to change. It’s all about making small changes in our day to day life.”

Conservation lifestyle choices

The couple’s eight year old son Bertie said: “I will switch the light off when I leave the room every time.”

British mother Sarah Laventure was spending a day in the Green Zone with her husband and children Annabelle 9, Sophia 9, Alexander 6.

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Recycling was a big takeaway for the entire family on Sunday, December 3. “My daughters are very mindful of Sustainability in their school. Reducing waste and conserving energy is high in our agenda. At COP28 we have found ingenious ways of doing this.”

Bangladeshi mother and daughter Khalifa Salim, 47, and Nafi Samira, 27, said they have been inspired by the Year of Sustainability, this year’s national drive in the UAE, after their day spent at COP28. “It’s top on the agenda of leaders and that is inspiring people in all walks of life. For me, on top of my personal agenda would be the use of public transportation in order to avoid so many cars on the road.”

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