Author: Kimberly Ludeña Acevedo

Final reflections on COP28 UAE

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.

KL – First Week at COP28

Coming from an engineering background where things are usually straightforward and data-driven, delving into the world of international climate negotiations has been a tough road for me. These negotiations have a history that’s more about geopolitics than just climate issues. Where each country brings their needs and positions to reach a consensus on diverse topics.

Attending COP28 was a unique and overwhelming experience, given the hundreds of daily events spread across nearly 90 meeting rooms of the seven buildings in the blue zone. Here I will summarize the events I attended in my first week and share my impressions thereof.

Starting with ambition?

The first day of COP28 began with a historic moment expected by many countries, as it was agreed to establish a new fund for losses and damage for developing countries to help them face the impacts of climate change. Countries demonstrated their commitment by pledging to the fund, UAE has pledged $100 million, in contrast to countries such as the US that had pledged only $17.5million. While this announcement garnered positive reception from many attendees, I could overhear some skeptics express concern that this initial commitment would represent the only zenith of achievements for COP28.

Negotiators’ busy schedule

I had met young negotiators from Latin America while participating in the G77 + China coordination meetings. They were selected from rigorous competitions in their respective countries and trained since the beginning of the year. One of them was Ivette from Chile, actively involved in the Capacity Building negotiations and participated in the negotiation and consultation meetings. I was also able to connect with Vida from Colombia, who was observing the JW on Agriculture negotiations with me. Additionally, I was able to reconnect with a former colleague from Peru, Almendra, with whom I previously collaborated on sustainability projects at the Peruvian B-Corp Libelula. Just like them, there were many more young people with high expectations and energy to participate alongside the negotiators of their countries. Their presence exemplified a broader cohort of young enthusiasts, full of optimism and energy, eager to contribute alongside their country’s negotiators.

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to connect with experienced negotiators from countries such as Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. It was interesting to listen to their impressions after the coordination meetings. Those conversations allowed me to understand the complexity of the expected progress in the agriculture negotiation, including the distinct blocs of countries and their respective positions. This thematic negotiation only had negotiation meetings scheduled during the first week and a quick agreement was expected to be reached in that time.

Unfortunately, as the days passed, reaching an agreement proved to be difficult. I was able to witness the working meetings of the G77 + China in the mornings, the informal consultations of all countries in the afternoon and sometimes even into the evening. Common opinions echoed the desire of many countries to make progress or “move forward”. I could hear that many nations agreed on elements of the Joint Work, others explained their priorities and red lines. However, despite these extensive negotiations, no agreement was reached, and the Joint Work negotiation was postponed to June 2024.

Peru Pavilion

During the intervals between negotiation meetings, I took the opportunity to visit different pavilions of Latin American countries, finding a sense of familiarity and comfort at the Peru pavilion. The Ministry of Environment of Peru prepared a comprehensive agenda that highlighted the role of indigenous communities in forest preservation. I was able to participate in the inauguration event, where business representatives, indigenous leaders, and young participants shared our expectations. In addition, I could attend the first Peruvian delegation meeting, where the country’s position was presented, negotiators explained the progress of each thematic, and other delegation members made their presentations.

Undoubtedly, this COP was an enriching experience for me. As an international student, it allowed me to closely follow the negotiations, connect with young negotiators, and reconnect with a feeling of belonging within the Peru pavilion.

Road to COP and my first day at the conference

Hello readers! I am Kimberly and this is my first blog.

From the beginning of the semester, we began to get an idea of how big and important COP28 in Dubai would be. Many of the fall 2023 cohort had not participated in a COP in person before and we were very excited to be able to attend an event of this magnitude. This conference brings together nearly 70,000 attendees, including Heads of State, negotiators, activists, and brilliant minds thinking about how to fight climate change.

There were different thoughts about the country hosting the conference, UAE is one of highest oil producers and has a history related to human rights issues, the conference’s president has a business past within the oil sector. However, there were also high expectations of the results surrounding the importance of the most important issues, which are the first-ever Global Stocktake, the operationalization of the loss and damage fund, and phasing out fossil fuels.

For about 14 weeks we prepared on these topics and at the same time contacted potential clients with whom we could work, whether as volunteers, writing reports, attending events or logistical tasks. In my case, after several emails, coordination and long waits, I was able to contact the Ministry of the Environment of Peru to obtain a party overflow badge and attend the negotiations of the G77 + China and AILAC group.

At the same time, I began to better understand the position of my country, the position of Latin America and the other participating countries. Although Peru is not one of the most emitting countries, it does not have high climate risks levels like Island or African countries. This puts a country like mine in a situation of not having strong negotiating power.

The day of the trip arrived and like all my classmates, we asked for assignment extensions, took exams in advance, and accelerated other duties so we could be fully focused on the conference. While I was sending my last emails to teachers, I was packing my suitcase and preparing my brain to take the flight to Dubai and my agenda for the following days. On the other hand, documents from the UAE government were leaked showing that they planned to use their role as an opportunity to close deals on oil and gas. This was somewhat disappointing, but at the same time it was an opportunity to clarify the objectives of the conference’s presidency.

My first day at COP28 finally arrived with mixed feelings, surprised at how big and new this city is. I picked up the party overflow badge and we recognized the venue at the Expo City. I attended the RINGO meeting early, then the G77 + China coordination meeting where I got my first inside look at the real negotiations. Later, I was able to recognize the Peruvian Pavilion, where I met old friends who are environmental activists and negotiators from my country’s delegation.

It was definitely an exhausting and exciting day with many expectations. I look forward to continuing to learn from the conference and making lasting connections.

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