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Health Pre-, Intra-, Post-COP28


I was unsure of my place as a health major student at COP28. However, to my surprise, health professionals have been in the UNFCCC space for quite a while. A small health delegation has been growing over time, attending the COP conferences. There has been more emphasis on research to study the relationship between climate and health.

Since COP26, the WHO has had a Health Pavilion to spread awareness of the link. While there has never been a dedicated health agenda item at COPs, this continued health movement has led to recognizing health in the Paris Agreement and the COP27 outcome. The prospect was looking better for COP28.



COP28 has, by far, had the highest presence of health ministers, ministerial representatives, and health workers ever. This health declaration was the states’ acknowledgment of the urgency of climate action to preserve health, including strengthening policies, addressing health determinants in the climate space, and collaborating on research.

The unique part of COP28 is having the inaugural Health Day on the 3rd of December. There was a tremendous health discussion that day, and we can proudly affirm that many received the message positively. Health is a vital reason why we should commit to climate action.

Among the several tasks the health professionals were committed to performing, the Global Climate and Health Alliance was one of the leaders in advocacy. The roles involved negotiation tracking, where we could all be informed of what was happening in every thematic area. We had daily briefings to update all health delegates and identify opportunities for improvement. We also did party outreach, which involved reaching out to countries that may benefit from persuasion from a health perspective to formulate favorable positions.

COP28 was also an excellent platform for networking. There were various side events and receptions where you could meet brilliant minds worldwide working towards the same goal: a healthy climate.

Unfortunately, we saw that health did not penetrate most negotiations. Such discussions on Global Stock Take, Global Goal of Adaptation, and Fossil Fuels lacked the influence or mention of health.



The health delegation and organization did a terrific job of amplifying the intersection of health and climate at the conference. The future tasks in preparing for the next conference to ensure a healthy climate begin now, right after COP28.

We are developing health parameters for climate phenomena effectively. This will allow us to accurately monitor the progress of climate change and its interventions, with the health of the communities in consideration. We currently have National Determined Contribution and Air Pollution scorecards, which have proven effective. However, there are still more studies that need to be done.

We also aim to continue working with different countries to ensure preserving health and option favorable climate decisions. Maybe not in the next COP, but the presentation of health bodies in the negotiations may be vital.

Finally, I urge more health-related students to apply for the Duke UNFCCC course and attend the COP meetings.

Reflecting: COP Outcomes

Post-COP, I’ve tried to detangle how I feel about the outcomes. The more I sit with the text, the more I am in awe that the almost 200 nations agreed on so much.

Of course, “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” is the big news headline. And given that this language is in the Global Stocktake (GST), it doesn’t just sit as nice words forever: the purpose is to directly shape the guidelines for every Member State that will update their Nationally Determined Contributions every five years per the Paris Agreement. The call to “accelerate action in this crucial decade” builds a pressure (that civil society can hold governments accountable to) to ensure we see increased ambition in the next two NDCs (set for 2025 and 2030).

There are quite varied views on whether this GST language is an applaudable success. 

Some, like Samoan climate justice activist Brianna Fruean who I first met at COP26 in Glasgow, remind us that “we’re given crumbs to celebrate, but it’s like asking us to celebrate flowers that will lie on our graves. How do we celebrate that?” I think she’s right. Science and feedback loops show us there is some action we can only take now—while some issues will require negotiation throughout my life, we can’t push all action to the future COPs. If action now is not strong enough, that is a huge loss in particular to island nations and the most affected people and areas.

Many youth and climate groups were calling for a “fast, full, fair, funded, feminist, forever” phase out of fossil fuels. These adjectives were not seriously expected in the outcome text given they have no agreed meaning or past use under the UNFCCC. But as a visionary framework, this language represents the level of equity, ambition, clarity, and permanence that many were expecting from governments.

Governments fell short of this, particularly with the loopholes that encourage abatement technology, inexplicitly allow natural gas as a “transitional fuel,” and avoid placing clear accountability against methane or coal (there was no progress made from the Glasgow Agreement’s “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”). 

However, one AP article I read on the plane ride back offered me a new perspective. According to Li Shuo of the Asia Society, if you translate “transition away from fossil fuels” in some languages like Japanese and Mandarin, it is understood the same as “phase out.” What we needed and what we got are not worlds away. Likewise, while oil and gas have yet to be explicitly named in COP agreements, we all know the elephants in the room. Reading this helped me reframe my initial disappointment in the GST. We can acknowledge that the work continues, while also shaping Dubai into the win we need. Outside of its use to shape domestic government pledges, these precedents can be taken into many other spaces. To be able to say that almost all the worlds’ countries agree fossil fuels are a problem is remarkable — and should not be taken lightly.

Here is my breakdown and perspectives on a few other notable agreements from COP28.

On youth: YOUNGO, the UNFCCC youth constituency, was quite involved in the institutionalization of a recurring two-year appointment of a Youth Climate Champion to support future COP presidencies and engage in COP and CMA proceedings (read the Presidency youth climate champion text here). This year was the first YCC appointment, and it is great to be seeing this continue. It’ll take, as the agreement states, “meaningful, inclusive engagement of youth” to ensure this position is truly impactful and non-tokenistic.

On adaptation: The Global Goal on Adaptation was a sticking point at COP, and many are disappointed that the GGA remains a series of “dialogues.” It does call for all countries to enact “gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent national adaptation plans” by 2030. On adaptation, there is also a call for progress on universal multi-hazard early warning systems by 2027, which according to UNEP, can “reduce damage by 30 percent” with only 24-hours notice of a climate-related disaster.

Overall, though, the text avoids addressing means of implementation. There is a desperate need for more finance to help developing countries adapt. While there was initially a call for a doubling of finance, data shows we need much more than that (18x, in fact). The growing gap was (kind-of) reflected in the text.

On mobility: Most of the language came through the GST Loss and Damage section.  It calls “to improve coherence and synergies between efforts pertaining to disaster risk reduction, humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction, and displacement, planned relocation and migration, in the context of climate change impacts, as well as actions to address slow onset events.” This is a win!

For more analysis, I love Carbon Brief

Thank you to Duke and Ina, Jackson, and Gabriela for this amazing opportunity!

Day 14: Final Thoughts after Much-Needed Post-COP Decompression

First off, I’d like to start by thanking our practicum professor Jackson Ewing as well as our fearless TAs, Ina and Gabriela for this invaluable learning opportunity. This COP was an all-you-can-eat firehose buffet of learning and I am sure I absorbed so much more knowledge through osmosis than I realize. I know that this will be a foundational and enduring part of my climate education at Duke.

In my seven days at COP, I learned about climate finance, decarbonizing hard-to-abate industries, green transportation, carbon sequestration, agriculture, biofuels, Islamic finance, private-public sector collaboration, and international policy negotiations. This is truly one of the greatest single concentrations of talent, activism, and advocacy in the world. Although the final text of the COP agreement is not nearly as strict on fossil fuels as the climate community had hoped, and next year’s conference is being held in another petro-state, I am encouraged to see so many countries and companies ready to press ahead on climate priorities with or without the rest of the world.  Young people also turned out to COP; when the youth activists I saw protesting eventually become the decision-makers in their organizations, the climate movement will make strides. The momentum is in the right direction.

To close off my blog series, I want to share some areas that I am optimistic about, and some areas I am concerned about after my week in Dubai.

Areas of Optimism:

  • Ambition: The ambition of public and private sectors was in full display at COP28. I was personally shocked when the President of my home country of Colombia pledge to cease new oil and gas exploration, given the sector is one of our main exports. Many of the companies that spoke at the McKinsey booth also surprised me. Companies are taking climate change seriously and embedding ESG concerns into their core strategy. From a carbon removal startup looking to grow 100x in 18 months to a mega-consumer-goods companies looking to implement restorative agricultural practices across the 7 million acres of farmland that feeds into their supply chain, the private sector is moving.
  • Focus: Activists and representatives in the public and private sector came to COP prepared with a clearly defined agenda. The cynical side of me distrusts lofty corporate Net Zero pledges, but seeing and speaking with the business leaders who are operationalizing their companies’ commitments showed me that the leaders in the space have a realistic grasp on what actions are possible, what will need collaboration, and what will need innovation.
  • Collaboration: Companies are unifying around common interests and coming together with their competitors to define industry-wide ways of working. There are cross-sector ventures splitting off from their parent companies to identify how shared knowledge and expertise can come together to innovate new value chains. NGOs are involved in new projects to ensure high environmental standards and to build confidence for consumers and investors.

Areas of Concern:

  • Energy Production: Many of the conference’s hot topics, including green hydrogen production, carbon capture and storage and biofuel production are incredibly energy-intensive. Even with all global attention on the issue, these technologies are fundamentally inefficient (e.g., high energy inputs for lower energy outputs), and will require enormous amounts of new energy to power. Even with the COP28 pledge to triple renewables by 2030, it seems to me that the rapidly-growing energy demand of these green technologies is the elephant in the room that people are not talking about.
  • Bureaucracy: Even though leaders at the COP communicate urgency, bureaucratic bottlenecks are preventing implementation of the energy transition. Whether it is under-resourced governments, archaic rules, or poorly-defined relationships between local, regional, and national governments, in many areas it is difficult to build new projects. In Canada, new renewables projects face the same permitting process as new Oil & Gas exploration. In the US, a transmission line for a wind farm in Wyoming finally got government go-ahead after an 18-year long permitting process. Permit reform may not be why we get into the climate space, but without it, our efforts are severely hampered.
  • A Fair and Equitable Transition: As with any macro trend, there will be winners and losers in the energy transition. I am still not convinced we have a realistic solution for the localized social impacts of what we are proposing.While I was visiting Oman after COP, some locals were telling me their concerns about an energy transition. The country’s prosperity and modernization was largely built on oil revenues, which their former leader Sultan Qaboos used to build advanced infrastructure and education for its people. While the country has favorable conditions to build renewables into their energy mix (lots of sun in Oman), 80% of their economy relies on petroleum exports. With a hypothetical phase-out of fossil fuels, the country would have to find new economic sectors to replace the revenues, or make do with significantly lower resources. Simply put, it is difficult to replace 80% of your country’s economy. While we understand there is a global imperative to eliminate fossil fuel production and consumption, the regional disparities produced by transitioning to a new economy will continue to put sand in the gears of climate diplomacy if they are not addressed.

    In additional to regional disparities, I worry that the private sector will capture a disproportionate share of the value created by the green transition. Corporations are well-positioned to take large investments, innovate new technologies, and scale them worldwide. They are not designed to distribute wealth equitably or architect truly inclusive systems. While they may be an effective engine to implement the COP commitments, we need to remember that the green transition must benefit everyone – especially those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – not just shareholders.



The COP28 Rorschach test

Since arriving back in the US on Thursday, I’ve now had a couple days to process the COP28 decision and my experience there. I’ve been trying to hold space for contradictory ideas about the Conference simultaneously in my mind.

Monitoring the media and engaging in my conversations with peers, the negotiated outcome of this COP starts to look like a Rorschach test, where the perception of success or failure says as much about a person as the text itself can. My conversations with CVF fellows all identified the operationalization of the L&D fund as a key indicator of success of this agreement. Others mentioned the GGA text, with some asserting that the final text was disappointingly weak on financing and equity (with too little emphasis on “common but differentiated responsibilities”), yet others celebrated the successful adoption after so many years of being sidelined. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel language dominated in more mainstream media and amongst my peers, again with quite bifurcated views on that outcome as either mealy-mouthed, weak or as a historic reckoning and “beginning of the end” of fossil fuels.

I have yet to fully internalize my personal emotions about the negotiated outcome, but my experience at COP was also a vivid reminder that while the negotiated outcome may draw most of our attention, there are two additional aspects through which we ought to judge the success of each COP. The annual act of multilateralism and the convening of the global network of people who descend on each COP are, in my opinion, important to celebrate as wins, despite the flaws of any negotiated text.

As I walked around COP, I found myself reflecting on how the diversity of the world represented at the conference, concentrated in one geographic space, exposes deep tensions between competing political systems (democracies, autocracies), incompatible ontologies (Do you nature as something we have dominion over, something we must be stewards of, or something we are in reciprocal relationship with?), and different economic realities and visions for the future. Obviously, there are huge disparities in power and in who is truly represented in the diplomatic negotiations:

  • Who’s allowed to sit at the table as parties, and who gets relegated to guerilla lobbying in the halls.
  • Which countries have multiple negotiators tracking every issue and which have one person tracking multiple workstreams.
  • Who can pay for a flight to Dubai (or pay for dozens of lobbyists to go) and who is stuck in their home country.

And yet despite all that, the Conference is annual attempt to bring the representatives of nearly all of world’s peoples together to address a common problem. This means countries engaged in hot and conflict, in great power competition, who otherwise might deny each other diplomatic recognition, and those offering a fiery rebuke of their peer nations’ ideologies all sit in the same space, follow common bureaucratic procedures, and agree to do something. Even when that something is weak, the act of coming together in negotiation is worth celebrating, preserving, protecting. Peace and cooperation, no matter how imperfect, are precious and fragile commodities necessary for global change.

COP also creates this annual locus of attention and activity that brings tens of thousands of people together from across the world and from across so many different approaches to the act of global transformation in response to climate change. The volume and quality of relationships formed, knowledge transferred, and empathy fostered (between activists, youth, businesses, government actors, nonprofits, IO workers, and so many others) within two weeks is truly remarkable, and I feel privileged and grateful to have made the connections I did this prior week and have been folded into networks of social and economic transformation that I didn’t even know existed before coming to COP. It will be through these connections that “niche innovations” proliferate across geographies and expand out of their niches to drive systems change.

So was this COP outcome a success? I don’t know.

I think the answer hinges upon 1) our ability to preserve the process of multilateralism year after year, 2) the preservation and diversification of our networks of connections made at each COP, and 3) the ability to synthesize all of that together to interpret whatever diplomatic outcome may arise with the highest urgency and greatest ambition. After all, language—even flowery, complex, diplomatic—is still just a tool to facilitate cooperative action. In that context, I see the words of the text as a whisper in the global conversation. But in every whisper lies the seeds of a roar. Each whisper is an idea made real, with the hope of being echoed and amplified, a nascent opportunity to reinforce or reshape human action. So the success or failure of the text depends on how we individually and collectively use it in our countries and our communities.

– Dylan Moore

Final takeaways and contemplation from COP28

As my week of attendance at COP28 was nearing its end, I explored discussions focused on gender, biodiversity, water and resilience. Nature based solutions are emerging as a template for tackling effects of climate change and restoring biodiversity in critical areas, and aiding resilience while making water and food systems resilient against climate adversity. Climate adaptation relies heavily on food and water resilience in vulnerable communities across the world, and it is estimated that 26% of the world’s population still struggles with access to safe drinking water.


I believe that the increasing emphasis on food and water system resilience at COP28 is long overdue, and it was interesting to note the strides in innovative solutions presented not only at the Food and Water System Pavilion but also at various country pavilions from south east Asia, Africa and Europe. Anthropogenic activities have created agricultural systems that are energy intensive and inefficient, as revealed by a panel discussion focused on creating a bioeconomy to thrive in the green economy. Plastic, a major threat to ocean biodiversity requires huge amounts of biomass, sustainable wood and materials that require massive quantities of feedstock that will strain our existing inefficient land use systems. Further, the discussion stated that our food system has become an extractive industry which pays no attention to consequences, and it requires policies that incentivize investments in nature and preservation.


My interest piqued further when I learnt of the far-reaching impacts of investing in soil health, especially in the global south where resilience and adaptation are simultaneously pressing needs of the hour. Isha foundation’s event featuring Sadhguru revealed that revitalizing soil health (minimizing use of pesticides, promoting use of organic manure among other practices) can achieve 20% – 30% of greenhouse gas mitigation alongside increasing land use efficiency, improving local livelihoods and building resilience in our agriculture systems.


At the Ocean Pavilion, I redirected my attention towards biodiversity preservation in marine ecosystems, in light of our growing ambitions in offshore wind energy. The discussion on advancing a net positive biodiversity impact in offshore renewable energy consisting of representatives from Fugro, Orsted and US Geological Survey brought our attention to our increasing investment in offshore wind, and stated that “for every single offshore wind turbine that exists today, we will need 6 more by 2030 if we wish to meet our net zero targets”. This is a massive footprint across the blue economy. With the lack of worldwide regulations on marine energy generation, the preservation of marine biodiversity is subject to national jurisdiction which varies considerably across different parts of the world. Restoring biodiversity in the ocean, the world’s largest carbon sink can address a third of our mitigation targets. The challenges that impede our progress in this aspect are not just restricted to policy frameworks, but also in data collection and assessment initiatives which tend to be capital intensive, while our understanding of marine ecosystems are still yet to mature. My collaboration with NatureDots during my week at COP28 led me to seek ventures with similar action plans – nature based solutions that leverage our technology and artificial intelligence systems to monitor, analyze and protect ecosystems and the communities dependent on them.  Understanding the economic value of natural spaces is imperative to build cooperation between public and private sectors and enhance their interest in preserving marine biodiversity for a net positive impact.


The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) text at COP28 calls for a “a doubling in adaptation finance and plans for assessments and monitoring of adaptation needs in the coming years”, and new money pledged for the global food system’s climate fight topped $7 billion during this year’s COP28 summit. The climate finance mechanisms across the world are still largely focused on mitigation and emissions reduction , and the climate finance going towards building agri-food and water systems is strikingly low, compared to the overall global climate finance flows. It is important to note the pivotal role of indigenous community wisdom for nature based solutions to our modern-day problems. Without protecting, representing and necessitating the role of vulnerable communities in our combat, the transition will not be just and equitable. As I bid goodbye to my journey at COP28, I reflect on the many climate change warriors across the world, working on the frontlines of disasters and yet fighting to preserve our planet for all flora, fauna, mankind and the generations to come.

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