The COP28 climate summit is now underway,  as scores of world leaders arrived in Dubai on November 30 to discuss how to tackle our ever-worsening climate crisis.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) is set to be the biggest yet — with 198 countries in attendance, and around 70,000 delegates. 

The annual conference, held under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will be a fortnight of talks in Dubai’s Expo City, wrapping up on the 12th December.

During this time, UN Member States will carry out the first Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement, to inform their next round of National Determined Contributions (NDCs) — their climate commitments to meet targets for 2035.  The UN has reported that “in the most optimistic scenario, where all conditional NDCs and net-zero pledges are met, limiting temperature rise to 2.0C could be achieved.”

Why is this year’s conference so important?  

As global temperatures continue to soar and break records, storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves continue to cause devastation around the world.   

Climate change

The UN’s new Environment Programme (Unep) report, released this month, carried a clear message: unless countries step up climate action and deliver more than promised in their 2030 pledges, the world is heading for a 2.5-2.9°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels.

It reveals that humanity now needs to cut emissions by an “unprecedented” 8.7% every year this decade to avoid dangerous global warming above 1.5C.  

COP28 will see some changes to the format, with extended discussion around key areas central to the climate crisis, including food, health, and methane. For the first time, the UAE will be holding a methane summit during COP28, in which countries and oil companies will be asked to give details on how they’re addressing the issue of methane, and there will be a day of the conference dedicated to the issue of global health.

Leaders will also be asked to sign a food declaration, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation setting out its first roadmap for feeding a growing population while adhering to the 1.5 temperature limit.

Who will be attending COP28? 

Arriving in the United Arab Emirates this week is UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and King Charles who will be giving the opening speech, along with the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and the UAE president, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. 

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, will also be in attendance, as will Pope FrancisThe UK Labour party’s Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband are also attending.

Who will be absent from COP28?

Presidents of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jinping of China, are not expected to attend, however their envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua have indicated their close cooperation before the talks.

COP challenges

In a recent speech, UN secretary general, António Guterres, spoke on the “failure of leadership, betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity.”


“The emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon – a canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records,” he said. “We know it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.”

None of the G20 countries, which together produce 80% of CO2, are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their net zero targets. The secretary general has said that countries must commit at COP28 to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 and to phasing out fossil fuels within a clear timeframe.

The agenda

Heads of state or government will participate in the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), a part of the conference that is due to take place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd December.  

COP28 controversy

Controversy surrounds the hosting of the climate summit by the United Arab Emirates nation, a major oil and gas-producing country.

“This is not the first COP to be hosted by a fossil fuel producing nation and it certainly won’t be the last,” said António Guterres. “Every country, even those that are major oil producers, have their role to play. What’s important are the messages and the signals that the incoming president is giving, and they speak to the need for urgent action and a focus on the how – how do we speed up the transition to a new decarbonised world.”

Just launched..

Recognising the critical role that businesses play in achieving environmental sustainability, ITN Business has launched Sustainable Solutions towards Net Zero, a news-style programme that aims to deliver the latest developments, inspiring stories, and innovative ideas in the journey towards a sustainable future. The programme will have a special screening in the REA Pavilion of the Blue Zone at this year’s COP28.

Head here to explore the new programme.