Hi, My name is Katie Maxwell and this is my first blog of my UNFCCC Practicum experience at COP28 in Dubai, UAE. Today is December 6, 2023, and I’m currently in the air flying over Europe as I write. A little while ago, we flew over Konstanz, Germany—the city where I studied abroad for a semester during my undergraduate studies at St. Olaf College. Now, I can say this is officially the longest flight I have ever flown on and we still have about five hours until we land.

I am looking forward to exploring the city a little bit when we arrive later this evening and settling in tomorrow as well. December 7th is a rest day at COP28 so a few of us arriving this evening may take the day to adjust and visit the Bazaar, something I hear is a must-see.

My schedule will be full of side events and meetings come December 8th. I am supporting the work of several faith-based NGOs during my time at COP28 because I have a particular interest in following their advocacy for climate action. To that end, A Rocha International and their partners are coordinating a side event in the Faith Pavilion on December 11th called “Exploring Religious Resistance to Climate Action” which I am particularly excited to attend.

The faith voice is a powerful and necessary part of the broader climate movement. I am inspired by the many young people of faith calling for the full operationalization of the loss & damage fund and a full phase-out of fossil fuels. Yet, it is also important to discuss why some communities of faith are uninterested at best and openly hostile at worst to protecting the environment. Furthermore, we need to discuss what we can do to shift the narrative to mobilize more people around the globe who profess a faith or spirituality to use their religious tradition to act on climate in their local communities.

One of the aspects that most excites me about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is the chance to meet other young people from around the world who care about climate. I am most looking forward to meeting the Lutheran World Federation delegation which is made up of young Lutherans who like me will be observing the negotiations as well. I expect to attend Interfaith Liaison events with them and participate in UNFCCC Secretariat-approved stunts within the Blue Zone.

Additionally, I plan to attend several events on extreme heat and nature-based climate solutions, two topics that the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability researches. Extreme Heat expert, Ashley Ward, has been asked to speak at “Building Heat Resilience: Actions and Opportunities for Healthier Cities and Communities” on December 9th from 11:15-12:30 in the Health Pavilion. That will be the premier event on extreme heat hosted by the UN this week. I am excited to see what I can glean for my communities back home in Chicago and Durham—two regions already experiencing extreme heat’s adverse health impacts.

I’m ready to get the week started!