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COP28 was about not just the meetings and discussions, but the people who made them happen. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Impassioned speeches and intense negotiations punctuated the 28th session of the Conference of Parties in Dubai. As the UN Climate Summit awaits the final resolution after 13 days of feverish efforts to set deadlines for climate action initiatives and pledges, Gulf News team looks back at the COP28 UAE. These are their impressions of the summit.

‘People are what kept COP28 alive. The buzz was incredible’

By Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

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.

Shyam A. Krishna

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.

‘Volunteers and their infectious energy struck me’

By Alex Abraham, Senior Associate Editor

The statistics were staggering – 100,000 people from 200 countries converging in Dubai with one aim, to make our earth a more sustainable place.

And over 12 days, I was happy to be part of this journey.

Green energy, blue hydrogen, fossil fuel, phase out, phase down, net-zero, carbon neutral – there were plenty of terms to learn along the way at COP28, and I am sure many of them are here to stay.

Alex Abraham

As I look back I cannot but marvel at the people who worked behind the scenes to make the event a success.

There are three points that come to mind immediately.


Dubai is no stranger to big events. And having conducted Expo 2020, hosting one like COP28 should not have been very difficult. But it still takes a sizeable amount of planning and organisational skill to pull off an event like this.

This could be seen from Day 1 – in the parking zones, the buses that ferried visitors to the entrance, the buggies that transported people around, the spotless venues all around and the attention to detail – everything called for exceptional organisational skills that went into the smooth conduct of the event.


It is one thing to organise an event, it is another to reflect energy. At the conference, much was discussed about green energy, sustainable and renewable energy.

But what I saw was the energy on display among participants and volunteers alike. Is that renewable energy? People manning the bus stops, directing visitors not to walk in the way of the buggy carts, those in the media centre helping journalists – all showed an infectious energy that is hard to explain.

And what about those in the pavilions explaining why they were there? I watched one elderly person from Japan who patiently explained his innovation day in and day out to everyone who stepped into his cabin at the Startup Village. He never seemed to get tired.


Volunteers held the event together with their selfless work and pleasant demeanour. There were hundreds of them – directing people to board the right bus to reach the metro station or the correct car parking lot, helping participants get to their hubs on time and ensuring that children kept away from the buggy carts. And they wore a smile all the time.

Over the days I was able to speak to some of them – the IT guys who helped us in the Media Centre, the drivers who ferried us around and those who lent us a hand in times of need. They were happy to share their stories with us and looked forward to finding work elsewhere once COP28 was over.

That’s what COP28 was all about – not just the meetings and discussions, but the people who made them happen.

‘At the end of 12 days, I can’t help but hope we have a shot at turning the tide’

By Dhanusha Gokulan, Chief Reporter

Growing up in my Indian household, I unknowingly lived by the principles of a circular economy. Plastic containers from food deliveries became vessels for sharing meals with friends and family. Worn-out clothes found new life as cleaning rags, and old newspapers served as makeshift dining table placemats. Every drop of water used to wash vegetables and reused tea leaves was repurposed for watering plants. Even milk bottles weren’t thrown out. My mother, resourceful as ever, turned them into plant watering cans by adding tiny holes to the caps. Vegetable scraps were transformed into natural fertilisers for her modest garden.

Being kind to animals was a non-negotiable, and leaving lights on or taking wasteful long drives was a big no-no to conserve energy and fuel. My mother’s mantra was clear, “What you take from nature, you must give back. Being wasteful is criminal.”

Dhanusha Gokulan

After spending 12 days at COP28, the world’s largest climate conference, I realised that climate action starts at home. Initially overwhelmed by terms like the 1.5-degree goal, NetZero, and loss of biodiversity, I found solace in the simplicity echoed by the speakers at COP28 – the planet comes first.

Walking into COP28 felt like entering a global brainstorm session, where sleeves were rolled up, and passion for climate action was palpable. It was a diverse gathering of minds, each contributing a unique flavour to the buffet of solutions for climate change. From tech innovators unveiling groundbreaking inventions to everyday heroes championing grassroots movements, the variety was mind-boggling.

But what indeed left an impression were the people. The crowd was teeming with interesting, fired-up individuals – scientists, policymakers, world leaders, activists, and entrepreneurs.

I discovered a hero in King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan. His impassioned speech during the national statements at the conference shed light on the profound impact of climate change on displaced communities and refugees escaping conflict, opening my eyes to the gravity of the situation.

COP28 was more than just discussions; it was about forging connections and finding common ground. Amidst the diverse stories from the Himalayas to the Amazon, a collective understanding emerged – we’re all in this together, and unity is our most potent weapon.

COP28 wasn’t just a conference but a bustling community of change-makers rewriting our future. Immersed in the energy and commitment, I couldn’t help but believe that maybe, just maybe, we have a shot at turning the tide.

Why I felt like a warrior of the world at COP28’

By Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

While I have covered various topics related to the environment, it wasn’t until the Pre-COP28 meetings in Abu Dhabi that the gravity of climate change’s impact on 8 billion people and their future generations became crystal clear to me. Delving into the details of the Global Stocktake and Loss and Damage Fund to keep global warming within 1.5C for the first time, I felt the weight of the task ahead.

My on-site coverage of COP28 commenced a day before the UN Climate Conference in Expo City Dubai when I attended the Majlis hosted by COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UN climate chief Simon Stiell and other top leaders of COP28. This set the stage for intense reporting on global efforts to save our planet.

The real sense of being a global citizen hit me when reporting from the UN-controlled Blue Zone, protected by the UN Police, where I felt that I was bestowed with the role of a warrior of the world giving voice to multilateral efforts to save our mothership called Earth from burning and sinking.

Sajila Saseendran

From reporting high profile crime stories in India to the space journey of the UAE, my career has offered me enriching experiences. However, COP28 has been the most high-profile event that I’ve covered so far. I got the opportunity to cover world leaders’ speeches, the UN Secretary General’s press conference, and to interview top officials, climate experts and civilians concerned about protecting our planet. For the first time, I witnessed financial commitments to the tunes of millions and billions being made to save the world.

Live reporting meant rigorous work, sometimes exceeding 12 hours. On some days, I walked up to 10km a day. Working with 4,000 global media members under one massive tent offered a new experience and we made some new friends.

Dubai once again sent out the message that we are all one, no matter what language we speak or faith we follow and it is up to us to protect our planet.

Whether or not COP28 delivers a Global Stocktake that pushes for the phase-out or phase down of fossil fuel, I feel the onus is on individuals, families, and communities also to take stock of what we have been doing and what we should do to keep life on this planet. Small steps, from planting trees and ditching single-use plastic to opting for public transport and reducing fossil fuel dependence, become crucial. I will treasure the COP28 souvenir water bottle as a reminder to spread the message of keeping 1.5C within reach.

The journey continues, fueled by the lessons learned at COP28 and the hope that global cooperation will prevail in safeguarding our shared home.

‘The security guard made my day’

By Anjana Kumar, Senior Reporter

The last 12 days flew by at Expo City Dubai, the venue of the COP28. On the last day of my visit to the Expo to cover stories, I had the most pleasant surprise.

At the Al Forsan Gate, a security guard welcomed me by my name. I was not hanging my pass on my neck for him to get a glimpse of my name. In fact, I was not holding my card. But he said: “Good morning Ms. Anjana.”

Anjana Kumar

It brought a smile to my face. Registering his name - Joseph - I told him that he made my day.

In a nutshell, COP28 spelled connectivity and inclusivity for me – whether among ministers, delegates, journalists or other visitors, there was a special connection. This made the UAE edition of Conference of Parties of UNFCCC a true success.

COP28 was really unique in many ways for the number of “firsts” witnessed at the climate conference. As an example, COP28 hosted the first fashion show to celebrate sustainability in the industry. For the first time a climate conference of such a massive level was made accessible to the public and this truly signified what UAE as a country is all about.

A British family of five just loved their visit to the climate conference. The Laughtons - Katherine, 36, Freddie, 37 and their children Bertie (8), Theo (6) and Barney (2) were thrilled to be exploring the 2023 edition of the Conference of Parties of UNFCCC. Their biggest takeaway was the knowledge they gained as a family at the Knowledge Hub. Bertie vowed to switch off lights every time he left his room.

Another Australian family, the Hamiltons - Gemma, 40, John, 47, and their seven-month-old baby - were also at COP28. It was such a treat seeing the family with their little baby at Dubai Expo City for a climate conference event.

The Laventures too – Sarah and her children Annabelle 9, Sophia 9 and Alexander 6 – cherished their visit. For them, recycling is a big part of their lifestyle – and they unanimously agreed that after COP28, they will make bigger sustainable changes.