December 22, 2023
COP28: Youth demands to be heard on climate justice on global stage
December 1, 2023, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director-General, met the Nuclear for Climate Youth Group.
Young people have taken to the global stage to highlight their concerns over climate change and the action that needs to be taken.
The world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 – the largest youth generation in history.
This demographic highlights the importance of the youth’s perspective and opinion in global discussions, as well as decision-making, at events such as the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP).
COP takes place every year since the Rio Summit in 1992 and the launch of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994.
It invites member states as well as other participants from around the world, such as business leaders, climate scientists, and other specialists in the field, to discuss the ways in which the climate crisis can be tackled.
This year, COP28, which marks the 28th meeting of the UNFCCC, took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from November 30 to December 12. It hosted over 70,000 delegates of 197 countries, the EU and thousands of non-governmental organisations, companies, youth groups, and other stakeholders.
COP28 Presidency UAE also selected 100 delegates for the International Youth Climate Delegate Program, who participated in the processes of climate change policy-making.
The selection gave priority to delegates from countries on the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Indigenous Peoples and other minority groups around the world.
As a young Lutheran World Federation (LWF) delegate, Andreas Grøtte Børnes, emphasised: “When it comes to climate change, it is really necessary to listen to all generations and all cultures and all countries”.
Although COP28 did offer an opportunity for the youth to attend, Dr. Mashkur Isa of YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, pointed out: “Despite our continuous calls for ambitious climate action our children and youth are mostly absent from climate discussions, commitments and policy making.”
The importance of the younger generation being at the heart of climate discussions and policymaking was also highlighted by the UN, which shared how they are impacted by the issue.
In an article on UN News, the organisation stated, “According to UNICEF analysis released earlier this year, weather-related disasters caused the internal displacement of 43.1 million children in 44 countries over a six-year period – approximately 20,000 children a day.”
“A new Education Cannot Wait survey shows that the education of 62 million children and adolescents has been disrupted as an immediate and direct consequence of climate change.”
Continuing to add how “nearly 29,000 schools were damaged or destroyed due to flooding in Pakistan, and drought is impacting young lives in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.”
While climate change is said to be worsening with more extreme weather events impacting daily life, it seems that world leaders and stakeholders do not truly feel the urgency of addressing the matter. Prof Lee White CBE’s, former Minister of Forestry and Climate of the Gabonese Republic, wrote in EuroNews: “Who is going to provide the leadership we so desperately need?”
UAE’s leaked briefing documents shared by the BBC revealed its plans of discussing fossil fuel deals with 15 nations at COP28.
Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the UN COP28 climate summit, but also the chief executive of UAE’s national oil company – Adnoc – denied the claims. In quotes reported in The Guardian, he said: “These allegations are false. Not true, incorrect, not accurate. It’s an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency … Never ever did I see these talking points or ever used such talking points in my discussions.”
But, his rebuttals were not convincing enough for some campaigners. Alice Harrison, the fossil fuel campaign lead at Global Witness, said: “The international climate process has been hijacked by the oil and gas industry. This leak must be the final nail in the coffin of the long debunked idea that the fossil fuel industry can play any part in the solution to the crisis that it created.”
Despite the UAE’s rocky start into its hosting of the COP28, it managed to close off the conference by mobilising more than 85 billion dollars in new financial commitments, launching ALTÉRRA, the world’s largest catalytic private investor that is 100% focused on solutions to climate change.
“We delivered world first after world first,” pointed out President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber in the COP28 Closing Plenary. The UAE consensus also entails the global goal of tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency, and highlighted the significance of more oil and gas companies stepping up for the first time on methane and emissions.
Crucially, the COP28 closed with an agreement that signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. But, as Sultan Al Jaber pointed out himself “an agreement is only as good as its implementation,” adding that “this historic consensus is only the beginning of the road” towards climate justice.