After a hectic and adrenaline filled first two days, I quickly realised I would need to hone in on the various constituency groups in order to better follow negotiations. The Women and Gender Constituency, WGC, quickly became home base while at COP. Started in 2009, the goal of WGC is to formalise the voice of women and gender civil society organisations active in the UNFCCC process. They advocate for a variety of positions developed through their members input.

This COP was an important stepping stone for advancing gender-climate related issues. COP28 had the first ever thematic day dedicated to gender. Many giants in the field, including my old boss, Ambassador Geeta Rao Gupta at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, hosted fantastic talks and workshops throughout the day. I appreciated how intergenerational all the panels and speaking events were. Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) is one of the head coalition builders within WGC. Many of the leadership, including Mwanahamisi Singano and Bridget Burns, made sure to elevate the various voices in all spaces they were a part of and definitely helped me navigate the UNFCCC process.

The highlight of my COP experience was collaborating with Indigenous peoples and local community organisers. I connected with land rights activist during my first morning huddle with WGC and we attended nearly every session together throughout the rest of my COP experience. As an indigenous elder, she spoke passionately about her work and the women’s collective she is a part of in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also connected me with networks of people she works with in Nigeria. To me, these kind of experiences are why COP is such a critical space. This COP has gotten a lot of pushback because of the outsized role fossil fuel players have had. While their presence shapes the UNFCCC process, the coalition building among non party actors has been equally impressive for me to witness. Especially because the information sharing and solidarity seems sustained from year to year based on my conversations with my colleague from the DRC.

So did I forget about oceans? Not really. Scrutiny on maritime shipping emissions and decarbonisation efforts had a larger part in this COP. I went to a few of the maritime and aviation fuel negotiations (yes, they exist!) and enjoyed getting to parcel together which country blocs advocated for more (or less) aggressive action within the sector. There was a great talk within the ocean pavilion that covered U.S. efforts to address maritime emissions within NOAA and the Department of Transportation. The transportation sector is the largest polluting sector in the United States and many components of industrial sector emissions are attributed to transportation related production materials. Therefore, many were confident that the UNFCCC will continue to highlight ocean-based solutions in NDCs and NAPs.

Overall, following both gender and ocean related issues was a fascinating experience that allowed me to see a lot of non governmental mobilisation efforts.