Delegates, officials, journalists, students and visitorsall kept COP28 alive
Delegates, officials, journalists, students and visitorsall kept COP28 alive. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Shyam A. Krishna

Dubai: COP28 UAE was a total surprise for me. Having closely followed the past UN Climate Summits, I always thought the Conference of Parties was a talk shop — a gathering of world leaders, fossil fuel producers and climate experts who sit down to find ways to reduce global warming, which threatens Earth’s future. It was much more than that.

Yes, all the debates and the haggling took place in the Blue Zone in the Expo City in Dubai. But the Green Zone was my haunt, where the numerous hubs kept me interested. There were fireside chats, workshops, presentations and more, but these were not my cup of tea.

People, there were plenty of them. Of all nationalities, multiple interests, and myriad skills and expertise. I loved meeting them. At the Technology and Innovation Hub, Aarti Holla-Maini, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Director, told me how space impacts climate action.

Robert Ziegler of Einride turned out to be the man who will put green energy into the freight traffic on UAE roads next year. My insight into tomorrow’s urban mobility grew after a chat with Yvonne Winter, who said Flynow will join the air taxi service in 28 months.

I ran into a young climate activist too. Julie Beaulieu is no Greta Thunberg. The Student Energy observer from Canada was so excited to learn about measures to combat climate change that she plans to pursue a career in food security.

The Startup Village was a favourite, and I visited repeatedly to catch up with eco-friendly technologies. The ventures sustained my belief that fighting climate challenges effectively is possible.

I also found sustainable art. Dubai-based Raisa Mariam Rajan’s artworks made of date palm coir struck a chord with Emiratis.

My biggest disappointment was the inability to catch up with indigenous people. The second day was dedicated to the people who are on the frontlines of climate change. I missed it. I managed to chat with the Benin people, but the rest of the world’s natives were hardly visible. At least when I was out and about in Expo City.

People are what kept the COP28 alive. I came across delegates, officials, journalists, students and visitors. The buzz was incredible. That will stay with me for a long time.