Thousands of heads of states, government delegates, business leaders, climate scientists, indigenous peoples, and other experts will converge in Dubai for COP28 that kicked off at Expo City on Thursday.

On Wednesday, delegates streamed in early in the morning, with many wearing their traditional clothes to the conference.

Safiatou Nana had travelled on her maiden trip to the UAE from Burkina Faso and came wearing the traditional hat from her tribe. “It is a symbol of our tribe and I wanted to make sure it was seen on a global stage,” she said. She paired it with her Africa-shaped earrings.

A member of a global climate activity network, she said this was the second COP she was attending and was hoping to see concrete changes. “We had attended COP in Sharm El Sheikh as well, where we went to several negotiations,” she said. “We have over 1,300 members all over the world and we have a list of demands we want met in terms of climate change. Right now, I am going an update meeting where we will review what we saw in COP27 and what we can expect in COP28.”

The future generation

Laura Alameda and Veronica Castano came in from Colombia and Spain respectively. Part of the Climate Reality Project – founded by former US Vice President Al Gore – the women had travelled to the UAE with 29 youngsters from 11 countries. “We train and educate youngsters all over the world about climate change,” said Veronica.

“We have selected two or three children from each country we work in and brought them here to COP28 so that they can watch and observe how climate negotiations take place.”

The students will accompany several of their country’s delegates and sit in on negotiations and discussions. Laura, who is attending a Cop event for the third time, said she was happy the students were getting such a hands-on experience. “I am a big believer in the power of negotiations,” she said. “Yes, it takes time and things move slowly but with negotiations we can sit with different parties from all over the world and move towards a better future. I am confident that we can achieve the target of 1.5 degrees benchmark.”

Experiences and fun

For many of the volunteers and staff, Cop28 was an occasion to meet new people and have new experiences. For volunteer Igor Nascimento, he has been enjoying his stint inside the House of Sustainability. The software developed turned consultant was in between jobs when he decided to volunteer at Cop28.

“It is the first day but I have already met so many people,” he said. “I am enjoying the experience of learning from them and exchanging ideas. I think I am going to make a lot of new friends by the end of this.”

Another Dubai resident, Romanian expat, Elena had just returned to the UAE after finishing her masters in international relations when she saw the call for volunteers. “I thought it would be great to get some experience in the field and see how things work,” she said.

Earlier today, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan posted on social media welcoming world leaders and representatives to the country.

“I look forward to working together in the spirit of human solidarity and a shared global destiny, in order to produce qualitative results to protect our planet from the threat of climate change, which has become present in every corner of it,” he wrote on social media platform, X.

He concluded with a message of hope and wrote, “The eyes of the people are on us and their hopes are related to what we will agree on, and it is the right of our children and grandchildren to leave them a world fit for life.”

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