How to do Cop28 (even if you aren’t invited)

Many of the world’s most powerful decision makers are set to meet in the UAE for COP28, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The goal of the annual gathering, which starts Thursday, November 30 and runs until December 12, is to address the issue of climate change by generating solutions and re-affirming commitments to reducing carbon emission targets in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement.  

In response to COP28 being hosted by the UAE, there are a number of fringe events and initiatives happening around the emirates, each organized by climate-conscious individuals, businesses and charities. While not officially part of COP28, they will contribute significantly to conversations about climate change. 


In partnership with sustainability champion Kate Hardcastle MBE, Times Square Center is hosting a free-to-attend, four-day mall takeover. Offering workshops, talks, entertainment and free family-friendly activities, Sustainafest is a community event that encourages consumers to buy smarter and greener. Hardcastle will be spotlighting the great strides being made by home-grown businesses and brands in the UAE to be more sustainable. 

There will be interactive talks and workshops on a range of topics, from growing herbs to creating homemade beauty products, as well as music and dance performances. The aim of Sustainafest is to empower consumers to make better buying decisions and the sort of individual changes to behaviour that can positively impact the wider world.  

“It’s with great excitement and a deep sense of purpose that I bring the ‘Buy Smarter, Buy Greener’ mission to Dubai as we set the stage for COP28,” Hardcastle says. “As consumers, our purchasing power is a tool for change. Every dirham spent is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. We’re providing actionable, supportive, and authentic advice to makethose choices a seamless part of everyday life.” 

Where: Time Square Center, SZR, Dubai

When: Friday December 1 (2pm-6pm), Saturday December 2 (2-6pm), Sunday December 3 (2-6pm), Monday December 4 (12pm – 2pm) 

Extreme Hangout 

Inspired by their love of adventure sports, the natural world and a passion to protect the planet, Amber Nuttall and Alistair Gosling established Extreme Hangout as a climate action events platform in 2021. Debuting at COP26 in Glasgow, the event boasted an impressive line-up of 200 speakers, including the likes of Bear Grylls and Lily Cole. Designed to give young changemakers a voice, popularize the climate movement and inspire environmental action, their 2023 event is set to be just as impressive. 

Located right next to the COP28 site, the Extreme Hangout pavilion will provide an inspirational space that is set to host leading organizations and individuals, showcase live discussions and provide entertainment to up to 3,000 people. Open to anyone, there is no cost to enter — though visitors must register beforehand. The events that take place at the pavilion are also set to be live-streamed. 

Where: Al Forsan Park, Dubai Expo City
When: December 3-12 

Farmacy pop-up

Plant-based London restaurant Farmacy has won many admirers for its nutrient-dense, organic and plant-based food, as well as its attempts to challenge the assumptions about modern eating and transform food systems locally and globally. During COP28, Farmacy will make its UAE debut with a pop-up at Goals House, Alserkal Avenue. 

Founder Camilla Fayed’s passion for sustainable farming and biodynamics led to her establishing her own certified farm to supply Farmacy in London. She is also passionate about creating educational initiatives that encourage better understanding of food sovereignty. 

The pop-up is the first step towards Farmacy arriving permanently in the region and Goals House makes a perfect venue; the itinerant private club hosts a diverse community of business and political leaders, activists, and entrepreneurs who come together to drive progress to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Farmacy’s vision for the future of food squarely addresses the first three Sustainable Development Goals — 1) no poverty 2) zero hunger and 3) good health — but also references, in particular 13) climate action, 14) life below water and 15) life on land. For the residency at Alserkal Avenue, Farmacy has partnered with Watermelon Market, an up-and-coming, UAE-based sustainable sourcing platform, to serve local and organic food. 

Where: Goals House, Alserkal Avenue

When: November 30 to December 6

Tarabot: Weaving a Living Forum 

Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai has commissioned the building of a brand new sustainable pavilion that showcases innovative, locally developed materials, telling the story of UAE’s landscapes through design. The Tarabot: Weaving A Living Forum is a space designed by sustainable architecture consultancy theOtherDada, and will host talks presentations, and community programs throughout COP28 and until April 2024.

“Tarabot is a radical space that pioneers exciting new research and architectural materials and also actively engages the community in thinking-in-public about a shared sustainable future,” Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, explains. “It illustrates in such a dynamic way Art Jameel’s long-term approach to foregrounding the role of the arts in addressing the climate crisis.”

The pavilion incorporates components made from sustainable materials like clay, mycelium, date palm waste, and upcycled fabric. After de-installation, these components will be repurposed for domestic planting and as underwater habitat, linking life on land to life underwater. The pavilion aligns with Art Jameel’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis and promoting sustainability in the arts. 

Where: Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park

When: November 2023 to April 2024

Heriot-Watt Climate Hub 

One of a number of higher education institutions in the UAE embracing COP28, Heriot-Watt University Dubai will welcome visitors to its climate hub, which is set to host a series of COP28-themed events, discussions, and research exhibitions. The university is also offering complimentary shuttles between its campus and Expo City and spaces to work and take meetings for those attending COP28. 

Events being hosted at Heriot-Watt University Dubai during COP28 will include the Future Skills Showcase, demonstrating the institutions initiatives around sustainable practice, as well as talks on Coastal Futures, Sustainable Finance and Industrial Decarbonisation.

“As a pioneering and global university, our aim is to take a distinctive lead in defining the route to global sustainability,” Professor Dame Heather McGregor, Heriot-Watt University Dubai’s provost and vice principal, said. “The Heriot-Watt Climate Hub will be offering our world-class university facilities to all those who are arriving to engage in the critical discussions about the climate emergency.”

Where: Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Knowledge Park

When: November 30 to December 12

Kico Camacho Exhibition 

The Zaha Hadid-designed ME Dubai hotel in Business Bay is presenting an exhibition of the work of Argentine artist Kico Camacho to coincide with COP28. Camacho’s works — curated especially for COP28 — explore themes around climate change and sustainability. The Madrid-based painter’s work, which focuses on aerial compositions presented from a bird’s-eye view,  will be on display in the hotel’s atrium for visitors to enjoy.  

Where: ME Dubai 

When: Ongoing from November 13 is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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