With 80,000 attendees, COP28 is largest UN climate summit ever

December 02, 2023

DUBAI: COP28 is officially the largest ever UN climate summit, with 80,000 participants registered on a list that -- for the first time -- shows who they work for.

Until this year, those taking part were not obliged to say who they worked for, making it tricky to detect lobbyists and identify negotiators´ potential conflicts of interest.

Some 104,000 people, including technical and security staff, have access this year to the “blue zone” dedicated to the actual climate negotiations and the pavilions of the states and organisations present.

Delegates at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai. —AFP File

That largely exceeds the previous record at last year´s UN climate summit in Egypt, COP27, which had 49,000 accredited attendees, and where oil and gas lobbyists outnumbered most national delegations, according to NGOs.

This year, there are nearly 23,500 people from official government teams. Travelling with them are 27,208 policy experts, academics, representatives of professional organisations and senior company executives from oil giants.

These guests do not have the same degree of access to the negotiations as the official delegates, but their presence has raised concerns about the ability of big business to influence the talks.

Among the host country´s guests are Bill Gates and Antoine Arnault, the son of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, the second richest man in the world after Elon Musk, according to Forbes magazine.

The accreditations list also includes more than 14,000 non-governmental organisations, ranging from environmental groups to industry lobbyists. In June, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said fossil fuel companies must “cease and desist influence peddling and legal threats designed to kneecap progress” towards preventing the planet´s climate spinning out of control.

And organisers say some 400,000 people have registered to get a day pass to the vast “green zone” around the talks on the site of the Dubai Expo 2020, which has been turned into a huge fair showcasing businesses and environmental innovation.More than 130 countries agreed to prioritise food and agriculture in their national climate plans at COP28 in Dubai in a move hailed by observers despite fears over its silence on the role of fossil fuels.

Food systems are estimated to be responsible for roughly a third of human-made greenhouse gases, but are increasingly threatened by global warming and biodiversity loss. A total of 134 countries who produce 70 percent of the food eaten worldwide signed the declaration, summit hosts the United Arab Emirates said.

“There is no path to achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement and keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach that does not urgently address the interactions between food systems, agriculture and climate,” the UAE´s climate change minister Mariam Almheiri said.

The declaration said that countries will strengthen efforts to integrate food systems into their emissions-cutting plans.

Nations would also pursue efforts to support farmers and other vulnerable food producers, including through increased funding, more infrastructure and developing early warning systems, it added.

It also emphasised the importance of restoring land, changing away from greenhouse-gas emitting agricultural practices and reducing food loss. The United States, European Union, China and Brazil were among the countries to sign the declaration.

The 134 nations are home to 5.7 billion people and represent more than three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions from the global food system -- or 25 percent of total emissions worldwide, the COP28 statement said.