Image of the members of COP28 by UNClimateChange on Flickr
DECEMBER 1: World Heads of State walk down Al Wasl after the group photo during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by COP28 / Anthony Fleyhan)

Understanding COP28

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With the end of COP28 drawing ever closer, this seems like a perfect time to review the positive (and negative) outcomes of the global meeting thus far. 

With big parties such as the US, UK and China being present, the anticipation for groundbreaking policies to be installed seems to be at an all-time high. However, there’s a lot of buzz and hype around the event and it can be hard to know what exactly COP is and what’s going on. 

Quite honestly, trying to distinguish between your COPs, your NDCs and all manner of other acronyms is challenging – it’s enough to confuse anyone!

COP (the Conference of Parties) is an annual meeting in which the members of the United Nations come together to review progress on meeting climate targets. They also explore how they can further reduce the impact of climate change. 

At COP21 in Paris, the first legally binding global treaty was signed with countries agreeing to keep global temperature rise well below 2C, and ideally below 1.5C [1]

One of the key motivations of COP is to check how well each country is sticking to the commitments it made in Paris. Each member will also have a list of NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) which are new policies that they are introducing in their country in order to reduce their emissions and to adapt to climate change [2].

Two years ago, an empowered Word Forest cohort of staff, trustees, volunteers, corporate partners and our Special Scientific Advisor, Professor Bill McGuire, attended COP26 in Glasgow. We were on a mission to question decision makers and to observe world leaders as they strategised climate change policies.

Tracey West, our CEO, comments: “We came home with a mixed bag of experiences and emotions. Some of the scientists we spoke to were clearly agitated as they felt our government was not acting swiftly enough. Also, politicians frequently painted pictures in the media indicating they were spearheading pioneering initiatives and leading the world. In reality, deeply disappointingly, that wasn’t the case.” 

To look through our coverage of COP26, please visit

The biggest story to come from COP28 is that the president of the convention, Sultan Al Jaber, stated that there is: “No science” to suggest that a phase out of fossil fuels is necessary to stay within the 1.5C target designated at COP21 Paris [3]

Along with COP28 being held in the UAE, the 6th largest oil exporter in the world [4], there have been record numbers of fossil fuel lobbyists attending the event. As Bill McGuire disheartedly stated recently: “The lunatics have taken over the asylum[5]

Unfortunately, this has turned COP28 back into a debate about the severity of climate chaos and whether action is necessary. The members should have moved way past this and be discussing the best way to make severe, urgent and swift reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions, amongst other things. 

Tracey continues: “There are a few more days to go and I should remain hopeful that COP28 will produce a favourable outcome for the planet. From what I’ve observed so far, unfortunately, I am not holding my breath.” 

The pattern from the data is that currently not enough is being done to ensure a future with low levels of climate disruption. On our current trajectory, the planet will warm by at least 2.5C by the end of the century so something has to change! [6] That is a devastating future outcome.

Simon West comments: “There can hardly be a person on the planet that hasn’t heard of anthropogenic climate change (although some still deny the science). It is incumbent upon all of us to do everything we can to mitigate the ensuing chaos. COP is supposed to produce consensus on how best to do this. Sadly, the policies agreed seem to have made little difference so far. I think it will be left to ‘grassroots’ movements and market forces of innovators to actually achieve the changes we need.” 

IMAGE of protestors for climate change by dmncwndrlch on pixabay

One of the most important articles to come out of COP28 has been a letter from the climate activist group Scientist Rebellion [7], in which they stated, “We are terrified. We need you. Wherever you are, become a climate advocate or activist.” 

In recent years, there have been meetings such as COP21 in Paris, or COP26 held in Glasgow, where governments have stated ambitious targets they want to achieve, then when they have fallen short of those targets, no one has held them accountable. 

We must ensure that all governments stick to their targets. It is imperative that we come together and work towards a better future for everyone – even making minor changes to our own day-to-day activities can have a real-world impact. 

For example, walking, cycling or using public transportation whenever possible, eating locally grown, in-season plant based food and reducing waste as much as possible, are all key in the fight against climate change [8].

Furthermore, supporting the work of charities such as Word Forest is a hugely rewarding experience which delivers benefits not just for the environment but also for people living in poverty in Kenya. 

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace both have tools which allow you to find local environmental support groups, you can access them here:

As a world-wide community, each doing our own little bit, we can truly make an enormous difference towards protecting our environment.

Though the outcomes of COP28 may appear to be slightly underwhelming, we cannot let this dampen our environmental spirit! The actions we make as individuals will determine what the future holds for the next generations.

Let’s follow Word Forest’s impressive environmental stance and make some more positive changes today!


  1. UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement. What is the Paris Agreement? United Nations Climate Change. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at:
  2. UNFCCC. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The Paris Agreement and NDCs United Nations Climate Change. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: 
  3. Youtube. UNITE FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS SUMMIT. SHE Changes Climate. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: 
  4. Twin, A. The World’s 10 Biggest Oil Exporters. Investopedia. 2023. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: The World’s 10 Biggest Oil Exporters (
  5. McGuire, B. COP28 Is A Circus That Only Helps The Fossil Fuel Industry. 2023. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: 
  6. UNEP. Nations must go further than current Paris pledges or face global warming of 2.5-2.9°C. United Nations Environment Programme. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at:
  7. Scientist Rebellion. How Much More Climate Failure Until We Act? Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: 
  8. Horry, R. Seven top tips to reduce your environmental impact. Derby University. Accessed: 06/12/2023. Available at: 

Leigh Balment, Kiran Bahra and The Team

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