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COP28 Day 1 Wrap: An Unforgettable Journey from Rats to Yoda

The Honourable Tongan Prime Minister talking about the impacts of Climate Change and the importance of new technology such as AI can help with adaptation.

Walking into Expo City for COP28 felt like stepping into a different world. The sheer scale of the place is something I can only describe as 'HUGE'. Navigating the vastness of this place, I felt like I needed my own personalised Google Map. Tip for fellow COP attendees: if you're planning to meet someone here, start walking early - it's a mini-marathon to get from one end to the other!

My morning began at the Moana Pacific Pavilion, diving into a fascinating session on Managing Invasive Species. The South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) revealed something astonishing about rats. It turns out that Pacific islands free of rats boast a 50% higher local fish stock, and their coral is four times more resilient. And the hero of this story? Bird droppings! Yes, the unassuming white splatters that adorn our cars are actually key to ecosystem health. In rat-free islands, birds thrive, enriching the environment in their own unique and crappy way.

The day took a poignant turn at the Commonwealth Pavilion. Listening to the Honourable Tongan Prime Minister discuss “Leveraging AI for Climate Action and Youth Empowerment” was an experience I'll carry with me forever. Tonga, like many Pacific islands, faces severe challenges due to climate change. Hearing the Prime Minister eloquently speak about these trials, and the potential of AI in their adaptation strategies, was both sobering and inspiring. Sadly when the AI geek showed of his software modelling of sea level rise there wasn’t much room left on the Island.

As I wandered through the Australian pavilion, a curious question struck me: Where is New Zealand? Among the myriad of national displays, their absence was noticeable. It's a strange feeling, realising that even smaller nations like Palestine made their presence felt, yet New Zealand opted out. Missing this global stage feels like a significant oversight, and personally, I miss having a dedicated spot to connect with fellow Kiwis. Thankfully, the Australian pavilion, with its welcoming vibe and free coffee, has become an unofficial meeting point for us.

The day culminated in the grand opening ceremony. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I secured what I thought was a prime seat in the front, only to discover I was in the overflow room, a whole 300 meters away from the main event! As speeches unfolded and fatigue set in, I was jolted awake by a quote from Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. He quoted Yoda from Star Wars, saying, “There is no try, either do or do not.” That moment encapsulated the spirit of COP28 for me – a call to action, urging us to move beyond trying to do so.

ESG Consultant
What I thought was the main negotiating room but was the overflow area.

As I reflect on my first day at COP28, it's these moments – from the surprising role of bird droppings in ecological health, the sobering reality of what is happening to Tonga and to the powerful words of a Star Wars Jedi – they all underscore the diversity and urgency of our global environmental conversation.

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