More than 160 world leaders are expected to attend the COP28 climate summit, which begins in Dubai today.
The COP (Conference of the Parties) summit brings together a broad range of the biggest names in politics, business and climate activism – but there is controversy over several names on the invite list.
So who are some of the notable people attending this year’s event?
Image: Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Pic: AP
Bashar al Assad
The Syrian president was invited to the Dubai climate summit in May after he was readmitted to the Arab League – but this has not gone down well everywhere.
“I think morally it’s repugnant,” says Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British Army chemical and biological expert who has spent a decade investigating Mr Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
“He should be arrested in Abu Dhabi, not flaunted on the world stage,” he told Sky News.
More on Bashar Al Assad
Just two weeks ago, an international warrant for Mr Assad’s arrest was issued.
International arrest warrants for serving leaders are exceptionally rare, and while Mr Assad is unlikely to face trial in France the move will have sent a strong message at a time when some countries have welcomed him back into the diplomatic fold.
A report by a former International Criminal Court judge recently argued Mr Assad should not be invited to this year’s COP28 climate talks because of the environmental destruction he and his regime have caused.
Syria says its prime minister will lead its team at COP28 – and has not indicated if Mr Assad will attend.
Read more: What is COP28 and why is it controversial?
Image: COP28 President Sultan al Jaber Pic: AP
Sultan al Jaber, the oil chief
The first CEO to serve as COP president, Sultan al Jaber’s appointment raised a few eyebrows when it was announced.
Why? He’s head of the massive state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, which produces millions of barrels of oil every day.
Adding to the controversy, with COP28 just days away it was alleged the UAE planned to use the summit to strike oil and gas deals.
“These allegations are false, not true, incorrect and not accurate,” Mr al Jaber told journalists on Wednesday.
“I promise you never ever did I see these talking points that they refer to or that I ever even used such talking points in my discussions.”
Image: John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua
US v China? John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua
Former Secretary of State John Kerry (who also ran for president in 2004) and Xie Zhenhua are the US and China’s respective climate envoys.
As representatives of the two countries with the highest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a lot of eyes will be on the pair and how well the two superpowers are able to work together.
In climate negotiations, Beijing argues that wealthy developed countries like the US, the biggest historical CO2 emitter, should move first and fastest in climate policy and finance.
Despite having the world’s second largest economy after the US, China considers itself as a developing nation in the climate talks.
The US supports a deal that would phase out CO2-emitting fossil fuel use but its delegates will face pressure for climate finance after Washington pledged no new climate cash to the United Nations this year
Image: Pope Francis had been due to attend the summit
Cancelled trip – Pope Francis
Pope Francis, who has been outspoken about climate change, had to cancel his trip to COP28 on the advice of doctors.
The pontiff warned in October that the world is nearing the “point of no return” and said the transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels was not progressing fast enough.
He stressed the “irreversible” damage under way to the planet and its people, adding that the world’s poor and most vulnerable were paying the highest price.
According to the Holy See, the Pope still wants to participate in the climate summit in some way.
Image: Bill Gates meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Pic: AP
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is also set to be in the UAE for the summit.
Writing on his blog earlier this week, the billionaire philanthropist said there is “more reason to be optimistic than most people realise”.
“But it’s still a big challenge, and since the world has finite resources for fighting it, we need to focus on the efforts that will save and improve the most lives.
“That means funding more innovations that reduce carbon emissions while making clean energy affordable for everyone, help people (especially in poor countries) survive and thrive in a warming world, and continue the world’s progress on fighting disease and poverty.”
King Charles will give the opening address of this summit on Friday – his first major climate speech since ascending the throne.
The monarch has devoted much of his attention to the environment over the last several decades.
It will be the third time that the now-King will deliver the opening speech, having done so at Glasgow’s COP26 and at COP21 in Paris.
But this year’s COP summit comes amid a PR storm for the King after the Dutch translation of a new book about the Royal Family reportedly appeared to name a member of the family who allegedly questioned what colour Harry and Meghan’s son Archie’s skin would be when he was born.
Source : Sky News