A Day at COP28

December 19, 2023

About the Author

Katja Novakovic

Senior Communications Manager

SEC Newgate had various teams on the ground during COP28 in Dubai. Here’s what a day at COP looked like, from our colleagues of SEC Newgate Middle East

COP28: from 10 AM to dusk

We could call Dubai’s COP28 a bit of an endurance test. The uncharacteristically warm December days, even by Dubai’s standards, quickly taught delegates to arrive 20 minutes early for meetings to allow for a compulsory cool-off period. Almost befitting for a Summit meant to respond to the mounting effects of climate change, with extreme weather phenomena seemingly dominating the news, alternating from one part of the globe to another. Then there was the behind the scenes tug-of-war over the final draft resolution, which, as we now know, gave way to a collective call to move away from fossil fuels – the first global agreement of its kind.

From 10 AM each day, Expo City Dubai, COP28’s home, came alive with activity, from school classes snaking their way through the formidable Al Wasl Plaza to delegate groups excitedly exchanging thoughts on the happenings of the day. Noticeable among the mix of accents was the number of participants from countries that had questioned the efficacy of a COP in a petrostate in the months leading up to the Summit.

Beyond the imposing structure of the ‘Tree of Life’, whose AI-interface accepts green pledges from passers-by, and the occasional walking robot parting the crowd in the ‘Energy Transition Hub’, a good part of COP unfolded as a trade show. Business deals and introductions, as expected, were not only welcome but expected, certainly to justify part of the CO2 emissions and costs that went into a visit.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ warning, “We are living through climate collapse in real time – and the impact is devastating,” set the tone for the 14 days of panels, debates and speeches at COP. Among the more than 65,000 core participants, exceeding attendance of previous COP summits by 80%, there was a ubiquitous sense of focus on the greater aim at stake.

Our on-the-ground support

Zooming into on-the-ground activities, SEC Newgate’s team, like many others, accompanied clients through on-site events, engaged with media on their behalf, and navigated the logistical dance of last-minute session announcements and elusive taxi buggies that never seemed to be driving in the direction of the panel you’d want them to.

Strategically positioned near the Media Center in the Green Zone, our team established a nerve center to liaise with media contacts, set up interviews, and help clients have a share in the climate conversations.

In the crowded news cycle, especially as the anticipation of the final COP announcement hung over us, we advised our clients on messaging that could cut through the noise and leveraged our strong media contacts, ensuring their voices resonated amid the myriad of narratives.

In many ways, it was a successful Climate Conference, as long as one isn’t too fazed about some last-minute creative rethinking in the face of changing schedules and the potential outcome of negotiations.

That being a natural part of PR may have helped us lessen some of the trepidation and allow our clients to experience COP for what it is: a show of grandeur and commitment, a place for negotiation and business deals, like any event with a guest list of this caliber.

Wrapping it up

After much back and forth, it was also a place for agreement and urgency on what will go down in history as the UAE Consensus, a landmark text endorsed by 198 parties that sets out an ambitious climate agenda to keep 1.5°C within reach. What will come of it? We will need to wait and see.

“I promised a different sort of COP. A COP that brought everyone together – private and public…civil society and faith leaders, youth and indigenous peoples. Everyone came together from day one. Everyone united, acted and delivered.” – H.E. Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President


Need support to navigate the Emirates’ media landscape? Contact our team on the ground