Dorothy is an environmentalist and climate change activist from Malawi. She attended COP28 with Concern Worldwide. Here, she gives a glimpse into COP28 from a youth perspective.
The curtains have closed on the long awaited Conference of Parties (COP28). COP28 has represented a powerful display of hope. The event brought together world leaders to tackle climate change. The decisions made at COP28 were critical in shaping the future of our planet. It became incredibly clear that the fulfilment of these commitments and the inclusion of young people’s voices played an important role in making sure that mere promises are transformed into concrete actions.
This global gathering of leaders, experts and activists proved to be a pivotal moment in our collective efforts to tackle the pressing issue of climate change, and in particular loss and damage. Loss and Damage has been a particular area of interest this year, especially in Malawi, due to the effects of cyclones in the country - the most recent being Cyclone Freddy. During the first day of COP28, countries made commitments towards the Loss and Damage fund that was first tabled at COP27 in 2022, leading to the operationalisation of the fund and associated funding arrangements. Several significant pledges were announced by numerous countries, namely the UAE, Germany, the UK, the USA, and Japan. Despite these commitments being made, it has always been a true test for countries to fulfil their promises.
The atmosphere was filled with a type of energy that was giving a sense of urgency and determination, as delegates from all over the world gathered in one place, Expo City in Dubai, to discuss and negotiate text and solutions. Gone are the days we say time is running out, because time itself had already run out. It would take over 30 years in order to reverse the effects of climate change, even if we had completely transitioned to Net Zero. The consequences of not taking action have become incredibly alarming.
We hear this time and time again, that the impacts of climate change are already being felt, with vulnerable communities and children bearing the brunt of extreme weather events and rising sea levels. However, even with these challenges, there is still a glimmer of hope. While the scientific community continues to present compelling evidence, emphasising the need for immediate action, they also provide the solutions that can reverse the impacts of climate change. The voices of activists and grassroots organisations were amplified every single day during COP.
In the space of climate change negotiations, COP28 managed to bring attention to an equally important aspect - the inclusion of young voices. Imagine a world where young people have a voice that is not only heard but actively sought after. This space was created for individuals from all around the world to come together and participate in decision-making processes. Through this space, young individuals from different backgrounds and cultures came together to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns during side events, bi-lateral meetings and delegation meetings. In a remarkable display of commitment, the government of Malawi has made significant strides to ensure equal representation, especially for young women, in order to foster a more diverse and inclusive dialogue.
In a significant development, COP28 has managed to solidify global agreements that aim to steer us away from our dependence on fossil fuels. By acknowledging the urgent need to transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, countries from all around the globe have taken a crucial step towards safeguarding our environment by agreeing to “transition away” from fossil fuels. A significant milestone has been reached with the pledge to triple renewable energy capacities by 2030. This commitment demonstrates a step to combat climate change and transition to a greener world, and a strong commitment to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and embracing alternative sources of energy that have a minimal impact on our environment.
I was privileged to be part of the Malawi Delegation Team as a Junior Climate Change Negotiator, allowing me to have access to negotiation rooms and contribute to discussions meaningfully. I was also given the opportunity to speak at a side event organised by WWF Africa about the barriers that prevent young women and girls from participating in Nature Based Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation initiatives in Africa, and how we can overcome it. One of the points I raised was the fact that it is crucial to identify and support young women and adolescent girls who are making a difference in the fight for climate justice, and to support them so that they have the capacity to act as strong role models.
However, despite the decisions and annual commitments made, our push for countries to act on climate change must still persist. We refuse to give up. The cycle of promises is just the beginning. There is need to demand tangible steps towards a sustainable future, rallying youth voices for collective and genuine change towards climate change. We must also acknowledge commitments but urge countries to transition from words to action. Our planet's future relies on it.