Feasta provided accredited observer badges to a delegation of activists from Ireland, Brazil, the U.S., and Pakistan to go to COP-28 in Dubai, UAE, which took place from November 30, 2023 to December 13, 2023. Click to links for reports from youth climate delegation to COP-26 in 2021, and COP-27 last year.
Excerpts from their reports after the COP-28 conference follow below:
This was my second COP, and I felt that there was more heartbreak and pain than I have ever seen at any Conference I have attended before. The major focus was on Palestine among civil society, and about the disillusionment of hearing world leaders speak about the climate crisis and then opening your social media to watch videos of people’s limbs blown off and murdered children.
So talking about fossil fuels, or the just transition, or the mitigation work program, felt like a universe away from the reality of what we have been able to accomplish as a global community already.
Global youth were able to run a campaign to advocate to include an equitable fossil fuel phaseout in the final text and COP cover decision, as well as workshops on an equitable fossil fuel phaseout, and actions next to negotiation rooms, it was a COP of tears and resilience.
…At the end, all of us held each other’s hands and put them up while chanting songs. Incredible moments like these are the ones that keep me going in this fight, and the only reason I, and so many other activists, keep speaking, advocating, putting our lives at risk for climate justice. We are heartbroken and exhausted, but will never be defeated.
“There is no order to this order,
No gavel that sounds like bombs that drop in Falesteen, like the one at the Conference of Parties
No workers like the brown ones that look like my father,
No workers like the ones that speak my language and I speak in their colonisers tongue, to depict a crisis into words
To depict a crisis into words for the shiny boots of dictators,
Who stamp all around me, walk all over me, my anger, my helplessness, pushed back by their security,
Like they might see me in the reflection of their spit,
Like they might see my people in the dirt they leave behind as they speed away,
On the shiny floors for the workers to clean,
To clean this life away
There is no end to the grief I share with the silence of catastrophe,
And catastrophe only becomes one with me in the Catastrophe of the Parties
In the de badged, threatened souls of the brave, is where I find revolution in the form of floods
One that will not displace the people
Revolution that will displace their millions in dollars
In the dry throat from the chanting, I have chanted my life away,
As they bring down the gavel, they sell my life away,
As I wipe my tears, and the bombs drop not so far away,
As I say a prayer, a prayer more binding than whatever text they make,
I am free, free from their world of disgrace
Ceasefire but they do not know that fire cannot be put out by text on paper thrown in,
The fire will rage louder every passing day,
White supremacy, phaseout, unabated, imperialism, militarism, colonisation, these words I have learned in the depths of my despair,
These words I have learned to breathe through for clean air,
Say, what have you lost that I haven’t lost today?
As they bring down the gavel, they smile for pictures in history books
As the cameras click click away, they smile, they sell my life away”
Theresa Rose Sebastian
Met with: Taoiseach Varadkar
My work at COP28 was to engage with the Indian and Irish delegations as well as supporting grassroot youth campaigns around equitable fossil fuel phase out. It was really powerful to see that this year the Indian government had brought 4 young people as part of their official delegation to present the demands of LCOY India. I am incredibly proud of my close friend Akhilesh Anilkumar, co-founder of Bring Back Green in Kerala who helped this happen.
Regardless [of the inadequate outcome], this COP highlighted once again, the power of indigenous communities, young people and civil society to lobby around justice and our constant will-power to fight for our people and the land. I’ll be back at the SBs and COP29 because this is the fight my comrades and I have promised our ancestors, ourselves and our grandchildren.
Met with: Marina Silva, Brazil’s Environmental and Climate Minister; Andre Correa do Lago (Diplomat/Secretary for Climate, Energy and Environment), representing the Brazilian government; also Rosângela da Silva, First Lady of Brazil; UN Assistant Secretary-General on Youth Engagements
This was my second COP (previously attended COP26 in Glasgow) and I felt like a lot had changed (on a personal level and also our growth as a movement) at the same time that quite everything stayed the same (intergenerational climate justice is getting closer, but still far from our goal).
[Although it sounds like progress that the COP presidency] assigned a Youth Champion,…there was a lot of language that would basically use this one person to substitute YOUNGO (a constituency with more than 10k individuals and with years of work). In the end we could in fact change some language but they approved it anyway so the fight for meaningful youth inclusion continues.
I went to some climate finance negotiations about the New Collective Quantified Goal – it will be decided only at the next COP in Azerbaijan.
The climate movement is becoming every day more intersectional and we were able to show how the fossil fuel industry is one of the main causes of almost all crises and inequalities we face today.
I participated in an action organized by Engajamundo to raise awareness about oil exploitation on the Amazon River.
We [are also] preparing ourselves for 2025, when Belém, the capital of Para state, will receive COP30.
I moderated a panel from Global Youth Coalition to launch the initiative “Reforesting for Peace” which aims to build capacity around video making so we can amplify youth-led grassroots work.
…At a reception organized by SRM (Solar Radiation Modification) youth watch, they presented about why young people need to be active agents in monitoring the global governance of geoengineering.
At the end of the day, I quote an Emicida (Brazilian rapper) song “Tudo que nós tem é NOIS” – translation: WE is all we have.
Met with: His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP 28 President; Abby Finkenauer, U.S. Special Envoy for Global Youth
A short video was posted here.
This was my first COP [and it] was a genuinely transformative experience. Shuffling between negotiations and events happening at the various pavilions allowed me to balance the formal conversations in negotiation rooms with insights from experts on how to best implement the topics being negotiated.
Outside of the negotiations, I spent considerable time attending events at pavilions. I found that the pavilion events provided more vantage points to view critical issues discussed at COP. Pavilion events also allowed me to network and engage with other youth and civil society groups.
During COP28, I closely followed the Article 6 negotiations. The failure of the parties to agree on text regarding section 6.2 and section 6.4 of the Paris Agreement, points to the more significant issue of governing localized mechanisms at a global scale. The Article 6 outcome left me with two questions:
- How do parties create a framework that accounts for the different baselines that each party is starting from while safeguarding each party’s varied priority areas?
- How do parties create a framework that is flexible enough to account for the issues stated in question one and also ensures that the framework has structure and is equitable?
Luna Silvana Abadía
Met with: U.S. government negotiators, Duke students and alumni, youth activists, climate migration/mobility leaders.
My report on the COP is posted here.
According to the New York Times, the COP venue “Expo 2020” is situated only “11 miles away from the largest natural gas power plant in the world.” Every COP delegate that rides the metro to the venue will be highly aware of this fact, since the metro passes right by its sprawling and haze-covered infrastructure.
Having served as youth delegate on the U.S. govt delegation to the U.N. gender conference (CSW67) this March, I learned a lot about how the U.S. negotiates and why non-binding agreements can be impactful.
Many youth and climate groups were calling for a “fast, full, fair, funded, feminist, forever” phase out of fossil fuels. Click this link to see my full report on the COP here.
Met with: Vice Governor of Brazil State (which one?); Dr. Gail Whiteman, the creator of Arctic Basecamp, and Dr.Susana Hancock, a climate scientist from Arctic Basecamp an organization for which I am a youth ambassador; bilateral meeting with Dr. Felipe Paullier of Uruguay, the new Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs
I attended a session on the state of climate science at the IPCC and WMO pavilion. As a physics student starting climate science, it was interesting to hear a panel from well established scientists. There was a lot of discussion on climate modeling and the future simulations that will be done on climate systems, as well as the new IPCC cycle of reports, which has recently started.
I had a meeting with youth from Argentina to discuss strategies to deal with an extreme right-wing president. The meeting was quite interesting, and we discussed future partnerships in Latin America. I attended the launch of the Bancada do Planeta, a parliamentary coalition for climate action created by Federal Representative Célia Xakriabá.
On the 8th we had the big FFF strike. We did the protest in the morning, with speakers from all over the world. It started in one of the permitted areas of COP, and ended in a plenary session with a silent march. After the protest, there was an event at the Chile Pavilion with Latin American Environment Ministers to discuss the paths to COP30, where not only the ministers, but youth and civil society in general were able to speak.
After years of discussions and empty promises, the Loss and Damage Fund was finally created, and there was an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. However, like everything at these events, these achievements come with contradictions. The Fund was insufficient, and countries had complete freedom to choose if and how much they would donate, which made for few and small donations. The words “transitioning away from fossil fuels” were included in the final text after 28 conferences, and there was still no mention of a phase out.
[Through all of our efforts] civil society managed to reach many decision making spaces, and proved once again that it is the people who do the most to deal with this crisis.
One thing, however, which I think will be a big motivator for action in the next few years will be the incapability to deny the climate crisis. To this day, there are climate deniers, but in the next few years the effects will become so clear in everyday life that there will be no possible choice but to act, and I think people who have never thought about the climate crisis will start to demand that from leaders as well.
[Towards the end of the COP we were all waiting to see if the final] text would include the words “equitable” …and the outcome was worse than we could have imagined. Once ministers took over the negotiations they came to a stand still leading to the catastrophic draft text we heard on the 11th…When we finally saw the finished text we were shocked to find little change. There were commitments to false solutions, easy loopholes and no mention of equity.
When we all packed into the closing plenary, the presidency jumped into gavelling the Global Stocktake, once again shocking us all and leading to whispers around the room, “can they do that?” and concerningly “where is AOSIS?” It came to our attention after the gavelling that the Small Island Developing States had been kept out of the closing plenary until the gavelling of the Global Stocktake. While a powerful statement was still made by Samoa, it could do nothing to change the gavelling. When the draft text was shown on the 11th, AOSIS walked out and said “we will not go quietly to our watery graves.” In the closing plenary it was decided for them that if they would not go quietly, then they would be kept out of the room.
My main work at COP this year centred around establishing a representative group for grassroots youth organisations called the Alliance of Non-Governmental Radical Youth (ANGRY)… Over 2,400 fossil fuel lobbyists were present at COP this year. This paired with the disappointing outcomes of the conference begs the question, is COP really a forum to achieve climate action? To many it feels that it has become a space for empty promises and false solutions.
“Men in suits calculate investment risks.
When I’m older I’ll tell my children of air when we could breathe it
and green grass beneath our feet.
I’ll tell them how the seasons used to come and go, of birdsong,
Of the lives and land we’ve lost.
The death toll rises, clocks tick down.
Men in suits invest in coffins.
When the end has finally come,
The last thing standing will be a burning boardroom.
Inside, a man will sit, spreadsheet in hand,
Met with: An Tanaiste Micheal Martin; Minister for Agriculture Charlie Mc Gonalogue; Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan (twice)
We informed the Tanaiste that we believed Ireland should join the Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty. We stressed that we wanted the government to endorse the upcoming motion in the Dail to that effect.
I observed how the environmental sector was misrepresentated. I reminded speakers that the environmental pillar withdrew from the Agrifood committee and refused to endorse the subsequent strategy document.
We discussed progress at COP28 and our expectations with the Minister for CA. For our second meeting we invited representatives from CAN. They were surprised at how little was shared. Other countries environmental delegation, including ministers, work closely with the NGOs.
Theresa O’Donohoe’s Reflections:
We need greater engagement with CAN and our national COP28 delegates throughout the year.
I’ve brought my videos and blogs together here at this link. I added a couple of videos of the youth response so they don’t get lost.
I think transitioning away [from the use of fossil fuels in energy systems] was a cop out. The term phase down is not as powerful as phase out and open to misunderstanding. Parties are called to ‘accelerate efforts’: this is not a commitment to take any action and sets no actual goals or implementation pathways. The word ‘unabated’ was vigorously pushed for by the fossil fuel lobby and fossil fuel producing countries, as it leaves room for them to continue producing fossil fuels while they explore abatement technologies.
…. The problem with COP28 was that fossil fuel lobbyists swarm the corridors and meeting rooms. COP28 was also heaving with meat and livestock lobbyists and reps from other planet-trashing industries. George Monbiot said: “What should be the most important summit on Earth is treated like a trade fair.” That said, there is humanity there, and heart – it’s about using that practically to make a difference without getting too ideological.
You can read further reflections from Barbara here.
FEASTA was pleased to support this delegation, thank you to the delegates who made the trip to Dubai, to their supporters and families, and to the IEN and other funding sources that made this possible. There will be more COPs, and we hope to bring underrepresented voices to the table to demand climate justice, and to promote Feasta’s proposal for an international solution to climate change, a fossil fuel phase out, and equity and justice: CapGlobalCarbon and the Cap & Share Climate Alliance.
Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.
Mike Sandler is the current Chair of FEASTA’s Board of Directors and is a climate change and sustainability professional with experience working for nonprofits and government. In 2001 Mike co-founded the Center for Climate Protection based in Sonoma County, California. Inspired by Peter Barnes and Richard Douthwaite, he has advocated for revenues from a price on carbon to be returned back to the public as a per capita dividend or share. He actively promotes CapGlobalCarbon and he has written on green monetary reform and basic income, some of which is archived on his author page on HuffPost.