The annual U.N. climate summit that starts November 30 has become one of the biggest diplomatic setpieces in the global political calendar.
Organizers are expecting more than 70,000 people to descend upon Dubai’s Expo City: activists, billionaires, presidents, Indigenous leaders, business executives, monarchs and diplomats from every corner of the world. A few will hold sway over the outcome of the talks. Some will make noise on behalf of vulnerable ecosystems and island nations. Some are looking to make side deals or burnish their images back home.
The world’s two biggest climate decision-makers — U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping — are not expected to show up. But their emissaries will.
But for Gates, still one of the world’s richest people, it’s both — and he’ll be at COP28 with two hats on.
One is the philanthropist urging governments to go further faster for the benefit of the world’s poorest people, who will be at the sharp end of the extreme weather, drought and flooding that climate change will drive.
The other is the investor, through his Breakthrough Energy Ventures initiative, which takes stakes in companies and technology that Gates and his advisers think are likely to make a big contribution to combating climate change — and make money.
King Charles III, royal activist
The U.K.’s “green king” has been an environmental advocate most of his adult life. Now at the age of 75, he’s attending his first COP as monarch (he went to two others as prince of Wales).
He doesn’t hold any real power back home, but he’s been granted a prime slot on the schedule by his UAE hosts and will deliver the opening address at the world leader’s summit at the start of COP28.
He also has meetings booked with regional leaders and is hosting a business conference.
Climate advocates will be hoping that a touch of royal razzle-dazzle can influence the ministers of oil-rich Gulf monarchies in a way that mere politicians never could.
Climate might be a matter of faith for the monarch. But his prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has rowed back some of the U.K.’s interim net zero targets and is embracing North Sea oil and gas production. They’re the COP28 odd couple.