UAE - In an effort to give a voice to the youth in climate-vulnerable countries, The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28 UAE) Presidency has launched a new global programme, the 'International Youth Climate Delegate Program' (International YCDP), at the ‘Road to COP28’ event held at Expo City Dubai.
The programme will give the opportunity for 100 young people from least developed countries and small island states to fully participate in COP28, a senior official announced on Wednesday.
The event was attended by Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-Designate of COP28 UAE; Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Community Development and COP28 Youth Climate Champion; Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment; and Razan Al Mubarak, COP28 UAE UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, and several other UAE government ministers.
Speaking at the event, which was organised by the conference's presidency and led by youth at Expo City Dubai, Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and President-Designate of COP28 said that the programme will work closely with Youngo, the youth arm of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and that the participating youth will be given the training, resources and opportunity to advocate on behalf of their countries and communities.
He said that while climate change affects everyone those in the most vulnerable countries with the fewest resources to cope are the ones that are the most impacted. He also stressed the role of youth and told them: “We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. It is you, our young people,” adding, “You want to be involved, included and you want to make a difference. So, my pledge to you is this: COP28 will be defined by the inclusivity and diversity that defines the UAE.”
Dr. Sultan said that the UAE has always addressed global challenges head on, tackled adversity with optimism and embraced the future with a positive mindset. “Our leadership has always balanced economic growth with environmental responsibility, and we have embedded climate action into our development strategy. Sustainability, respect for nature and protecting diversity is well rooted in our tradition and values,” he said.
Al Mheiri said that sustainability is at the core of climate change. “Sustainability is fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising anything for future generations. We have to find a delicate balance between economic growth and social well-being,” she told attendees.
Al Mazrui said that UAE’s leadership has always focused on the youth. “The Youth are part of every endeavour, from space to education to the future of government. The UAE believes that climate action is no exception,” she said.
She added that, in fact, the youth needed to be at the heart of it since it’s the most pressing global problem. “The leadership believes that young people have the innovative ideas to drive climate solutions and e the skills and willingness to lead that change,” she said.
She stressed that for the last two years, they have been listening to the youth and they identified four needs when it comes to climate action – P.A.V.E (Participation, Action, Voice, Education).
“Young people want their voices to be relayed at COP28 to shape outcomes in November. They want increased access to COP28. They say they can’t be equal participants on decision making tables if they are not equipped to understand the climate. They don’t want superficial knowledge,” she said.
Climate change, according to Shamma, is not an environmental issue but a social, educational, cultural and security issue. “It should not happen in isolation from the land and the people hosting it. Today is a community building exercise. The UAE is using and harnessing the potential of diversity to really move the dial on climate action,” she said.
Al Mubarak said: “My role is to work with non-state actors – anyone who doesn’t represent national governments – students, universities, businesses, financial communities, cities. It’s diversity not just of actors but thoughts and disciplines.”
She said that more and more youth are aware of the seriousness of climate challenges. She said that according to the Arab Youth Survey in 2008 just 11% of youth felt that climate change was one of the biggest challenges facing the world but that number changed to 56% in 2022.
“Within the youth survey, there was also a bigger interest in entrepreneurship. As a high-level champion how do I engage and tap into this energy and momentum of how business and entrepreneurs can help address,” she said.
Focused on themes including participation, action, voice, and education, ‘Road to COP28’ was a day-long event with a range of activities such workshops, youth circles, debates, intergenerational dialogue, and a climate leaders panel.
More than 3,000 members of the community attended, including the COP28 leadership team, UAE Ministers, students, youth in national service, youth climate advocates, senior citizens, people of determination, green business owners, farmers, entertainers, and volunteers.
COP28 UAE will take place at Expo City Dubai from November 30–December 12. The Conference is expected to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors.
As mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement, COP28 UAE will deliver the first-ever Global Stocktake — a comprehensive evaluation of progress against climate goals.
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