World Leaders Take COP28 Stage as Climate, Gaza Share Spotlight

The COP28 conference on climate change opened in Dubai on Friday with world leaders facing pressure to ramp up efforts to limit global warming, as the Israel-Hamas conflict loomed over the summit.

The UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Britain’s King Charles III, India’s Narendra Modi, France’s Emanuel Macron and other dignitaries at the Expo City Dubai complex, where the two-week meeting is being held.

The conference started on a positive note on Thursday, as nations agreed to set up a “loss and damage” fund for countries hit hard by natural disasters.

But the delegates have a long list of thorny issues to tackle, starting with the future of oil, gas and coal, which are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

A draft of the agreement being negotiated by nearly 200 countries calls for a “phasedown/out” of fossil fuels, in line with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The UN warned that 2023 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded, raising fears that the world will miss the target.

But the climate crisis is not the only challenge facing the leaders in Dubai.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met his UAE counterpart on Thursday and will address the COP28 conference on Friday.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who was also expected to speak, cancelled his trip and sent his foreign minister instead.

The conference began on Thursday with a moment of silence for the civilians killed in the Gaza conflict, at the request of the Egyptian head of last year’s COP.

Herzog is using his COP28 visit to seek the release of hostages held by Hamas.