By Yasar Atacik, PhD, ESRAG Chair


RI President Gordon McInally speaking at the Rotary Zones 30-31 Institute in September, 2023

For the first time, Rotary will have a pavilion and programing in the Blue Zone at this year’s UN Climate Conference – COP 28 – which will take place in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. Rotary’s senior leaders will attend with a significantly expanded delegation including four ESRAG members. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is convened by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Blue Zone is the official plenary and negotiation space for the COP. Rotary’s goals in attending COP 28, according to delegation chair Judith Diment, are to promote Rotary senior leaders’ engagement with high level government people and to strengthen relations with the UN. This also gives us a chance to tell what Rotary does. Rotary’s COP 28 Planning Committee, led by Judith Diment and Dr. Chris Puttock, have been working on planning since the beginning of the year. Rotarians from the UAE are providing critical support for the organization.

Rotary’s engagement with COP has grown exponentially over the last five years. In 2018 ESRAG Co-Founder Karen Kendrick-Hands attended COP 24 as Rotary’s first observer-delegate ever. RI Presidents Shekhar Mehta and Jennifer Jones attended COP 26 and 27 with a delegation.

This year the delegation includes all of Rotary’s top leaders: RI President Gordon McInally, Rotary Foundation Chair Barry Rassin, and General Secretary and CEO John Hewko. The delegation is led by Judith Diment, dean of the Rotary Representative Network to the United Nations and International Agencies. Mohamed Delawar, Rotary’s representative to the Arab League, and Rotarians from Dubai will also attend. Dr. Chris Puttock, Dr. Mina Venkataraman, Salvador Rico and I will be part of the delegation representing ESRAG.

The Rotary pavilion in the Blue Zone is large enough to accommodate up to 40 attendees. Thematic sessions will be organized aligning with COP 28 themes announced for each day. These themes and the sessions include:

  • Health, relief, recovery, and Peace Day
  • Finance, trade, gender equality
  • Energy, industry, and just transition
  • Multilevel action, urbanization, built environment, and transportation
  • Youth, children, education, and skills
  • Food, agriculture, and water

In addition to events on these themes, Rotary will have sessions on how Rotary works and how Rotary addresses the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on environment, pollution, and climate.

Various sessions on these themes are being developed by the delegation with others. Rotary earlier announced its desire to connect with all Rotarians attending COP 28, so please spread the word about the Rotary pavilion and send me the names of Rotarians or Rotaractors that you know who are going. You can reach me at

Rotaractors will help to run Rotary’s pavilion. The Rotaract volunteers are being selected from different countries, speaking a variety of languages to facilitate communication with delegates coming to the pavilion. They will be hosted by Rotaractors in Dubai. This will be a valuable Rotary leadership experience for the Rotaract volunteers.

COP 28 will also take up a critical issue: Global Stocktake. As foreseen in the Paris Climate Agreement, UNFCCC is undertaking this global stocktake to assess what has been accomplished. The report which was published this month will be discussed by the parties at the meeting. Unfortunately, as expected, the findings show that very little has been achieved.

The expense for the pavilion was not expected and not budgeted by RI, so most of the funding ($200,000+) for the pavilion and related work had to be funded by donations, including a few from members of ESRAG. Thanks to those ESRAG members who contributed!