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30 Nov 2023

Optimism reigns despite the challenges as COP28 begins in Dubai

Optimism reigns despite the challenges as COP28 begins in Dubai
COP28 opening ceremony

As the world gathers in Dubai for two weeks of intensive climate negotiations at COP28, there is much hope amongst world leaders – and indeed the wider public – that this particular United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 28th held to date, will mark a significant turning point for climate action.

The hype is certainly high. The official COP28 website proclaims that the event is set to be “a milestone moment when the world will take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement”. While the first Global Stocktake will provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement, will this progress report to be delivered at the event help to align global efforts on climate action, including ushering in the measures that need to be put in place to bridge the gaps in progress?

The portents are mixed, with climate leaders and experts trying to strike an optimistic tone while recognising that the challenges facing them are massive. Speaking at the start of COP28, the UN’s former climate chief Christiana Figueres says that people need to balance outrage and optimism after a “hellish summer” of extreme weather.

“We have to keep the outrage really high because we are so darn late,” said Figueres, a veteran negotiator who has been hailed as the architect of the Paris climate agreement that will be put under the microscope at COP28. She also pointed to the weak policies that governments have set to try to cut global carbon pollution and highlighted the $7tn that they have used to directly and indirectly subsidise fossil fuels.

Figueres said that she was trying to remain optimistic despite feeling moments of hopelessness, helplessness and depression every day about the rate of progress the world is making on climate change. Reasons to be optimistic she said included the plummeting cost of renewable energy and also the growth of electric cars - two important areas where positive changes were happening faster than ever before which offered real hope for the future.

While recognising the importance of this latest COP and the desire of many to see faster progress towards the 1.5C target agreed under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the former UN climate chief appealed to countries’ own interests on safeguarding the planet for the future. “What leads to further action, frankly, is the realisation that it is in enlightened self-interest to do the right thing. That is what led to the Paris agreement - when all countries realised, who’s going to win from a dead planet? No one wins from a dead planet,” she said.

Many of the issues being debated and discussed at COP28 will be dissected further at London Olympia from 30 April to 1 May 2024, when Innovation Zero is set to host one of the largest sustainability and net zero expos ever seen in the UK. More than 12,000 delegates are expected to gather in the capital as part of a comprehensive programme featuring hundreds of world-class speakers across 175+ content sessions, who are experts in climate change mitigation, clean technology innovation and implementing low carbon solutions. Find out more at

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