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Record number of attendees line up to enter COP28

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-08 09:50
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Hou Liqiang

It's just a stone's throw away from the metro exit to the entrance of Expo City Dubai, where the COP28 United Nations climate change conference is being held.

It's a distance most people can easily cover in less than two minutes. But for participants to the annual UN gathering, it actually may take even the fleet-footed more than one hour to enter the venue.

Instead of walking straight to the compound, attendees were asked to make a big U-turn after getting off the train, walk away from the metro station for several hundred meters and then come back, only to find that you are just on the other side of the road under the station.

Then, you have to join a long serpentine line under the beating sun, the third line you have to endure. There are almost 30 lanes for security checks at the entrance near the metro station. But spending over 20 minutes in the line is not strange.

Yes, COP28 is hot.

Official data shows that nearly 100,000 people have registered to attend COP28. No wonder organizers have to rack their brains to prevent attendees from overwhelming the area for security checks.

This represents a sharp rise from previous COPs. The number of registered participants for COP27 stood at roughly 45,000, while COP24 welcomed 22,770 attendees.

Definitely, COP is becoming increasingly hotter despite the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world becomes even warmer due to climate change.

This is the warmest year recorded in human history, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told COP28 delegates when the conference of nearly 200 nations kicked off on Nov 30.

People of different skin colors in different styles of dress, including traditional red Masai dress and Hawaiian feather cloak, make many areas in the 438-hectare Expo City Dubai heavily jammed.

One of the most bustling areas in the huge compound is the China pavilion, where about 100 side events will be held.

The enthusiasm of people from different sectors in China to participate in COP28 has gone far beyond my expectations. In many sessions, the pavilion was packed with many standing attendees.

There, I became more keenly aware that China has not only been a participant and contributor, but also a trailblazer in global environmental governance.

Aside from researchers and entrepreneurs who are always active at such events, I saw many students and officials from grassroots-level government.

What impressed me the most was Ma Yiyuan from Beijing No 18 High School, whom I ran into on Nov 30.

The 17-year-old just recovered from a bout of mycoplasma pneumonia, because of which she suffered a high fever for days. She is to take part in an art college admissions test and then the English listening and speaking tests for college admission five days later.

"I really want to hear voices from different nations and see how they conduct environmental protection work," she said.

She said she also wants to tell people from all around the world what has been done in China to promote climate action. For years, as head of an environmental organization at her school, she has been proactively promoting waste sorting and low-carbon travel on campus.

Many grassroots-level officials have come to COP28 to share their instructive practices in promoting low-carbon transition. Zhao Xiaoqiong, a leading official with the bureau of ecology and environment in Luzhou, Sichuan province, shared the practice of his bureau in promoting a green lifestyle with an app named Lyuya.

I shared China's Tanpuhui mechanism, under which Lyuya works, and where people can gain carbon credits by conducting low-carbon activities, on Tuesday with Rajendra Shende, a former official with the UN Environmental Programme from India.

He was so fascinated by the mechanism. After talking with me for a while standing outside the China pavilion, he asked to find somewhere to sit.

Eventually, we talked for at least half an hour. He left me reluctantly only after he was assured that he could get in touch with me for further communication via Skype.

We actually have many more mechanisms that can be instructive for other countries, especially developing ones. So, I'd like to say to all: "Welcome to the China pavilion or even to come to China to learn about them."

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