This new academic phase of my life in a new country, studying International Development Policy at Duke University, has been both exhilarating and challenging. Dealing with cultural adjustments, imposter syndrome, and the academic rigors has been a big part of the last few months, until I realized my trip to Sharm el Sheik to attend the COP27 was right around the corner. This left me with very limited time to focus on what this trip meant to me personally, as well as my expectations from the conference itself.

Having realized this, my cohort and I decided collectively to allow ourselves a brief reprieve from our usual routines to recharge and ready ourselves going into this landmark conference. The idea was to spend two days in Cairo prior to the conference which was to be our ‘dessert before the main course’. Unfortunately, Murphy’s law decided to intervene and our flight to Cairo got cancelled, leaving us stranded in New York for over 40 hours. While this didn’t really help with the ‘recharge’ part of the agenda, it did give me time to reflect (not too long luckily as we ultimately arrived at Sharm el Sheik on time).

Coming from a typically cold weather dominated country like Albania, my first view of the Sahara Desert flooded me with strong emotions and a rather bleak view of our future which reinforced my view on the need for addressing climate change. While science clearly establishes the need for reducing emissions and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees, it is ultimately our mindset and behavior that will make the difference, and this is what I am keen to see happen at the conference.

Just as Albania has spent time acclimatizing to its’ traditional cold weather climate, Egypt has spent time adapting to the extreme heat of the desert. However, climate ‘change’ as aptly coined, is now forcing us to respond to changing circumstances which we are not ready for, demonstrated by the experience of the recent heat waves in Europe. My previous work experience in disaster management has made me witness the devastating impact of such natural disasters on human life. These disasters, due to climate change are becoming more prevalent, affecting millions of lives and consuming resources that may be otherwise used for advancing socio-economic development.

Tacking this requires technology, infrastructure, resources, and most importantly, commitment. As one of the most important shared global challenges we face, the importance of coordination and supporting each other cannot be understated, particularly given the disparities in terms of resource availability between developing and developed countries.

I am personally keen to observe how countries will continue to navigate such complex issues relating to financing climate mitigation and adaptability, building on the dialogue established in Glasgow during the COP26 conference. Aspects such as how parties will decide to finance loss and damage, what will be covered and when, what are the requests of developing countries, and to what extent the developed countries will accept and support them, etc. However, with the slow pace of such negotiations observed during previous conferences, I’m not positive enough to believe that COP27 will address everything related to loss and damage. However, I would love to see at least a positive collaboration between the party groups and a structured plan for how to support affected communities in developing countries. Besides loss and damage, adaptation and energy transition will also be on my watch as the areas where I’m focusing my studies at Duke.

We set out on this journey with the intention of enjoying a sweet experience before dealing with the COP27 realities, but with everything that transpired, all I can hope is that the negotiators will manage to keep something ‘sweet’ for us all. A dessert that will restore our faith in this process even more and would strengthen our hope for the future.