Also, I had the privilege of working with other young people to bring the first ever Children and Youth Pavilion to the COP. The pavilion served as a safe space for young people to come together to network, collaborate, cross-pollinate each other’s work, or even just to relax from the ever busy COP. We also had a meeting room and a media room for bilaterals and press interviews. This made it a lot easier to schedule bilateral meetings with parties and negotiation groups, and gave young people the opportunity to share their stories with the press.
The pavilion received widespread support from parties, the UNFCCC Secretariat, COP Presidency and even the UAE government as they pledged to support and fund another Children and Youth Pavilion at COP28.
COP28 is a very important COP because it will mark the first ever global stocktake (GST). As we take stock of the progress made so far, I believe there is dire need to close the gap between politically-agreed targets and science-based targets. The current pledges are nowhere close to meeting the ambition set out in the Paris agreement. But the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber as COP28 president designate who also doubles as the CEO of one of the nation’s biggest oil companies represents a huge conflict of interest, one that can undermine the trust and integrity of the process.
Our planet is in a critical state. The breaking ice caps in the Arctic to me signify a breaking of Mother Earth’s spirit, a weakening of her very foundations. In the Sahel region, we are experiencing drought and rapidly encroaching desertification. There is still a long way to go to secure a habitable future for all. Climate change is often viewed as a distant, abstract problem that does not affect people’s daily lives. This lack of understanding can lead to complacency and a failure to take the necessary steps to prevent further harm. I fear that governments may continue to drag their feet, and that the progress we have made so far will be undone.
I also fear that the greed of corporations and politicians will triumph over the resistance of young people and others fighting for a safe and livable planet for all. This fear is not unfounded, given that many corporations and politicians prioritize their own interests and profits over the well-being of the planet and future generations.
Despite these fears, I remain hopeful and committed to doing my part. I am motivated by my encounters with people suffering the consequences of climate change and who would do anything to have a better life for themselves and their children. The determination and creative ingenuity of young people also gives me hope.
I try to build bridges between generations and create opportunities for young people to be heard. I believe that working with parents, children, and across generations is a powerful approach to addressing the climate because it creates a sense of shared responsibility and purpose. We can build on the wisdom and experience of older generations, while also harnessing the energy and creativity of younger generations. This creates a golden thread that binds together values and experiences across generations, and creates a shared vision for the future.