After attending the SES JW on Agriculture and Food Systems negotiations during the first week, I couldn’t help but feel sad about the missed opportunity for meaningful action, ambition, and progress among the parties involved. I expected to see real progress in the negotiations, but in the end, it was postponed until June 2024.

As an observer and graduate student, I reflected on the insufficient commitment demonstrated in the discussions. I also started to think about the farmers leaders and observers from indigenous communities who attended the negotiations with the hopes of being part of some real progress, of being heard, but returning to their countries with the unpleasantness of this COP. And how the disheartening reality of the COP’s outcome added an unwelcome layer of disappointment to their already challenging circumstances.

Transition away from fossil fuels

Although this COP was the first to mention fossil fuels, there was an expectation that the final text would explicitly indicate the phase out of fossil fuels. Social media let me evidence the distress that many young negotiators and observers were feeling as the last days of negotiation unfolded. The long days of negotiation stretching after 11 pm and the final texts that did not contain the sufficient ambition that representatives of developing countries demanded, made me realize the phrase that I heard at the beginning of class: “the magic happens during the overnight hours of the last days.”

On December 12, the last day of COP, parties engaged in late-night work, but the Global Stock Take final text was still not finished. Consequently, negotiations continued the following day. The long-awaited final text indicated that there must be a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels by 2050.

No phase-out wording. Not urgent enough.

However, fossil fuels are finally facing a reckoning. The approval of the final text by nearly 200 countries sends a powerful message to policymakers, investors, and civil society, that we are on our way to phase out fossil fuels. In the words of Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UNCC, “Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”

There is a lot to negotiate in the following years, I hope it is not too late and that COP29 shows greater ambition.

Youth participation

There is something very powerful about youth participation in the COP and it is their energy, passion, and their desire to be heard. During the first week of the COP there were pacific demonstrations and manifestations outside Building 1, the epicenter of negotiations. However, as the outcomes of the negotiations became apparent in the second week, these demonstrations intensified. I was able to closely follow the demonstrations from social media of youth groups and some classmates. I listened to their chants, saw their peaceful demonstrations and the powerful message they sent to the attendees and the world, an impassioned stance against fossil fuels.