Blog by Chevaughn Brown, Membership Lead at the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network.
Entering the COP28 venue in Dubai, there is a line of flags on either side of you. They each represent a country. Some are nearby, and some are clear across the world. Big and small, developing and developed, they have all experienced the impact of climate change in some way.
For many, the increasingly frequent visits from catastrophic natural disasters and the steady rise of sea levels are already a starkly entrenched reality.
What is evident as you enter the doors of the state-of-the-art Expo City in Dubai is that these countries all agree that the world could not renege on the commitment it made in Paris in 2015 to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
A fossil-free future
So, I was not surprised when the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell opened the Conference with the sobering warning that "if we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people's lives".
But, as a young delegate at COP, representing the Commonwealth, the question on my mind was whether this annual event had become a tick-box exercise.
This is a concern for many Commonwealth young leaders. That is why, coming into COP28, we had a clear mission. We had all agreed that we needed to speak up: first, as advocates, demanding action instead of repetitive rhetoric and second, to offer solutions and innovations. We knew going in that we would need a multi-sector approach. So, our Commonwealth Youth Networks joined forces and connected with other networks.
Working together, the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network, YOUNGO Health WG, Generation Climate Europe, and the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network created spaces for dialogue and for sharing our innovations.
On day one, we began by transforming our pavilion into an immersive fossil-free world in our Envisioning a Fossil-Free Future: Putting One Health and Peace at the Centre workshop. Aided by storytelling presentations and paintings, we invited participants to see that it is possible to create healthy, peaceful and economically resilient communities driven by sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
Our aim on the second day of COP28 was to remind the world that technology can be a friend of our planet and a force for good. In our Green Skills for Innovative Youth Climate Action session, we looked at how some of the latest technologies can help us achieve our climate action goals.
Furthermore, we focused on practicalities, exploring the training, engagement, collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit required to ensure young people can leverage these innovations to advance climate action.
Finally, we took the opportunity to speak directly with policymakers and world leaders about our concerns and ideas. We were encouraged by the number of young people who wanted to participate in these dialogues and the support from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, who stressed the importance of engaging and listening to young people on policies and practices shaping climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The Secretary-General also endorsed and supported the launch of our COP28 report, which outlines the climate concerns of young people in the Commonwealth and proposes specific actions for governments to engage them in decision-making, underlining that the "hope of tackling climate change lies with youth".
As we prepared to return to our countries and communities, we did so with new strategies and tools and an unwavering commitment to continue working together to advance green, innovative climate action.
Ijeoma Onyeator Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat