COP28 Unwrapped: Was it Worth it?

Kritika and I recently returned from what can only be described as two of the most electrifying weeks of our year—the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), the world's most significant climate gathering.

Being chosen to represent Canada as delegates was an honor we cherished deeply; it marked a milestone on our bucket list as climate-tech founders to have a seat where the future of our planet is being shaped.

This year's COP was anticipated as being one of the most pivotal in all 28 years of the conference's history. For the first time ever, all major discussions seemed to center on a singular agenda item: the phase-out of fossil fuels. Emotions ran high leading up to the event, given the world's record-breaking temperatures and the impact of war that was being witnessed in parallel. During these unprecedented times, our expectations for COP were to address the intersectional impacts of war, fossil fuels, and rising temperatures on climate change. The headlines blared controversies, from questioning nations' intentions to the staggering amount of lobbyists present - four times more than the year before!

Kritika & Nuha, Co-Founders of erthos

Our perspective?

Despite monumental efforts to address critical issues this year, like phasing out fossil fuels, establishing a loss and damage fund, and securing climate financing, we believe we're still lagging behind in the urgent actions necessary to safeguard future generations.


Developing nations continue to face biases and unfairness in climate discussions.

The focus on methane reduction and nature-based solutions marks a crucial industry milestone.

We urge stronger climate leadership from Canada, given its significant ties to fossil fuel production and high emissions per capita.

COP28's emotional buildup signifies its potential for change but underscores the need for more than incremental progress.

The Sustainability Pavillion at COP28

Moments that moved us

We had the exclusive opportunity to access both the Blue and Green Zones to participate in negotiations, meet key industry leaders, and witness groundbreaking events.

Looking back on our experience, here are our top 4 favorite moments:

#1: Al Gore’s Keynote

Al Gore delivered a keynote that stood out for us. He shed light on the role of plastics in the climate crisis, emphasizing a staggering projection: "At the current trajectory, lifecycle emissions from plastics will surpass those from coal by 2030." His presentation included compelling data and insights on petrochemicals.

He also boldly addressed the inefficiencies of recycling, debunking the belief that it can magically solve our problems despite lobbying efforts to glorify it. This resolute stance resonated deeply with our own convictions, offering an energizing perspective. The discourse around recycling's inadequate attention was a prevalent theme at COP; instead, the focus on targets related to methane gas reduction and the potential of bioplastics marked a transformative moment for our industry.

Al Gore, Former VP of the United States & Founder of The Climate Reality Project

#2: Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Session

"We are talking here about an 'omnicide', the risk of extinction of life on the planet... between fossil capital and life, we choose the side of llife." - President Gustavo Petro of Columbia

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, launched in 2015 by Pacific Islanders, aims to complement the Paris Agreement by halting fossil fuel expansion and ensuring a just energy transition. At COP28, Colombia officially joined as the 10th member, and  President Gustavo Petro's unwavering commitment, irrespective of economic gains, was evident. The Indigenous representative from Peru pleaded for an end to fossil fuel production in her community, sharing firsthand experiences that sent shivers through the room. Her frustration, palpable and universal, required no translation to be deeply felt and understood. Noteworthy figures like Paul Polman and Presidents of coalition members were also present to witness this emotionally charged session highlighting the real-world repercussions of fossil-fuel-based economies.

Paul Polman, Former CEO of Unilever & Co-Author of Net Positive / Nuha Siddiqui, Co-Founder & CEO of erthos

#3: Stella McCartney’s Sustainable Market

Attending Stella’s Sustainable Market amidst the heavy negotiation rooms in the Blue Zone was refreshing. The market showcased next-generation innovations in fashion from sustainable startups like BioFluff (plant-based fur) and KeelLabs (seaweed-based textiles), instilling a rush of inspiration and hope that viable solutions are thriving!

Stella's Sustainable Market at COP28

#4: Ayisha’s Future Generations Roundtable

Hosting a roundtable, Ayisha Siddiqa, a Climate Activist and youth advisor to the UN Secretary General, gathered young climate activists and delegates from around the world. We openly shared our individual encounters with the climate crisis. Some recounted their struggles to breathe in their communities, while others lamented the heartbreaking extinction of precious ecosystems intertwined with their heritage. The multitude of diverse voices present at the roundtable reaffirmed our dedication as young women of color to championing climate action. It underscored the pivotal role we play in this critical fight.

COP28 at EXPO Dubai

The Wins, Losses, and Controversies: Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

The text in the Global Stocktake became the focal point of scrutiny at COP28. Negotiations swayed towards entirely eliminating language around phasing out fossil fuels from the final text, sparking massive protests and strong opposition. Eventually, the final text showed minor improvements, emphasizing emissions reduction and reaching net-zero by 2050. While the specific "phase-out" wasn't explicit, the text strongly urged nations to take immediate action and included targets to accelerate and significantly reduce non-CO2 emissions globally, particularly methane emissions by 2030.

Loss & Damage Fund

COP28 witnessed a landmark agreement to support vulnerable nations grappling with the severe impacts of climate change. The fund, initially managed by the World Bank, garnered the first pledges from nations in Dubai, totaling over $700 million. Witnessing this historic moment on day one was powerful. However, let's put this into perspective: to effectively address the true loss and damage effects, we require over $400 billion annually. Disappointingly, despite being one of the largest producers of oil and gas, the US contributed a mere $17.5 million to the fund. In contrast, it’s estimated that US taxpayers pay about $20 billion dollars every year to the fossil fuel industry.

Adaptation & Nature

Continuing from last year, this COP emphasized strategies for adapting to climate change impacts. Notably, the final text directly mentioned nature-based solutions in the Global Goal on Adaptation. A promising 2030 deforestation goal was also part of the text, ensuring that diversity in solutions is considered. It was exciting to see the growing acknowledgment that achieving climate goals demands innovative technology rooted in nature and a bio-based economy, crucial for transitioning towards sustainable cities and supply chains, a driving force for us at erthos.

Blue Zone Speaker Room at COP28

Main Takeaways

Reflecting on COP28, a few themes remain top of mind as it relates to the climate crisis:

The Role of Developing Nations: As young entrepreneurs invested in climate action, our participation in high-level state discussions and engagement with youth activists provided invaluable insights into persisting biases and the evident lack of fairness towards developing nations. Erthos is situated at the intersection of business and climate, and we feel a profound sense of responsibility to foster inclusivity. We are committed to leveraging our platform to amplify the powerful voices of youth and marginalized communities.

The Role of Biomaterials: The concept of a just transition and nature-based solutions resonated deeply with us. The emphasis on targets around methane gas reduction and the role of bioplastics signals a pivotal moment for our industry. We will continue to champion sustainable materials and promote responsible consumption.

The Role of Canada: Despite Canada's support for renewable ecosystems, its level of investment in critical pledges like the loss and damage fund was disappointing. Considering Canada's significant global presence in fossil fuel production and its GHG emissions ranking per capita, we advocate for a more assertive leadership role from Canada in addressing climate issues and advancing next-generation solutions that promote a bioeconomy.

The Role of COP28: The heightened emotions leading up to COP28 underscored the potential of platforms like this to ignite a significant movement. However, the urgency of our current climate crisis demands more than incremental change. With wildfires raging, ecosystems on the brink of extinction, cities facing disproportionate destruction, and record-breaking temperatures, we can't afford gradual shifts. We urgently require accelerated action like never before.Looking Ahead

For erthos, COP28 was monumental. It deepened our understanding of the global climate landscape, reignited our commitment to sustainability, and intensified our urgency for accelerated action. As we continue innovating sustainable materials, our mission remains steadfast—to contribute significantly to a greener and more sustainable future.

Stay connected

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