COP28 Day One: A major win for climate-vulnerable nations

Aaron Kinnari
Aaron Kinnari

Even before you set foot in Expo City, you notice the incredible diversity of the representatives from around the world gathering in Dubai for COP28. The more than 90,000 credentialed delegates and 400,000 attendees are coming together over the next two weeks to ensure the ideas and interests of their communities represented at this year’s annual gathering of cross-sector climate leaders and decision-makers. 

One of Only One's goals for this year is to elevate the importance of the ocean in the climate conversation, so as a representative of the team, I started my first day by visiting the Ocean Pavilion. One of a few hundred pavilions, each hosting dozens of events over the course of the conference, the Ocean Pavilion is the central home for marine programming, from biodiversity to the blue economy. But as Ambassador Peter Thomson, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, joked in his opening remarks, the pavilion’s location on the outskirts of Expo City is far from the center of the action. If we do our jobs right, Thomson quipped, ocean issues will be more central to future COPs — both politically and physically.

Ambassador Thomson delivers remarks to commemorate the opening of the Ocean Pavilion.

The first familiar face I saw was Ambassador Carlos Fuller, the Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nations, who had arrived a few days earlier for ministerial meetings. I had last seen the ambassador at his office in New York, where we discussed the impact of the climate crisis on his home country. The conversation was part of a campaign and content series we produced with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to highlight the far-reaching costs of the climate crisis on small islands and to advance negotiations on the Loss and Damage Fund. Ambassador Fuller’s insights were part of our short film about the community of Monkey River in Belize, which faces the constant threat of coastal erosion and rising sea levels. 

After seeing Ambassador Fuller, I ventured over to the AOSIS Pavilion, which our team was honored to co-design as part of our joint campaign. The exhibit space features photos and stories from island nations around the world, including Tuvalu, Niue, and The Bahamas. The pavilion also invites visitors to join the tens of thousands of supporters around the world who have called on world leaders to fulfill their commitment to finalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. 

The AOSIS Pavilion, co-designed by Only One.
The AOSIS Pavilion, co-designed by Only One.

It wasn’t long after I left the AOSIS Pavilion that the news broke. World leaders had done just that. In the first major act of COP28, delegates agreed to the blueprint for the Loss and Damage Fund and committed the first $260 million, with the host country, the UAE, committing $100 million. This achievement marked an incredible milestone — and a major step toward helping developing countries cope with the wide-ranging costs of a climate crisis they had little role in creating. 

The victory on the Loss and Damage Fund to kick off COP28 gives me hope for the potential impact of the days ahead. Much more progress is needed to achieve the crucial goals at the forefront of the conference, including broader efforts to reform climate finance, accelerate renewable energy, phase out fossil fuels, advance adaptation and mitigation, and more. Transforming commitments into action will require continued collaboration, investment, and innovation — COP28 is already off to a strong start.

The AOSIS Pavilion, co-designed by Only One.

Aaron Kinnari

Co-founder and Senior Advisor

A New York native with a background in business and politics, Aaron loves the opportunity to trade a business suit for a swimsuit and jump in the ocean when traveling.

New York, United States

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