Another year, another COP: my reflections

Yusra Shafi - COP28
Yusra Shafi - COP28

Another year, another COP (Conference of the Parties). Much like every year, it is hard to find the words to describe this global climate negotiation space – and this is most certainly a feeling that became more evident upon actually attending COP as a delegate.

Last year, I attended my first COP (COP27) as a youth delegate on the joint KAIROS and For the Love of Creation Delegation. The experience was nothing short of remarkable: I learned profound lessons, absorbed lots of knowledge, and made invaluable connections. My involvement with COP27 had me feeling reinvigorated and determined to continue my climate advocacy with an enhanced robustness. I knew my COP journey wasn’t over.

I was extremely grateful when, this year, I was given a badge by the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) for a place on their international delegation to COP28. KAIROS and the IBVM Mary Ward Centre generously sponsored my trip, and I had a packed schedule for Week 2 of the COP proceedings. I was committed to making the most of this wonderful opportunity!

The day after I landed in Dubai, I headed to my first official COP-related event – a Strategy Breakfast held by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FFNPT) Initiative. Over delicious vegan fare, fruitful networking, and lively conversation, the FFNPT secretariat told us to roll up our sleeves and put us to work. Our conversations spanned historical perspectives, future considerations, and, most importantly, strategic planning. The central questions we focused on were:

  • What specific areas were our primary focus for the upcoming year?
  • In what ways could we expand endorsement of the treaty by individual cities?
  • How could we leverage our existing networks, and what strategies could we employ to establish new ones?

The energy in the room was palpable – every single individual present at the session was united for a single cause: to phase out fossil fuels. We discussed factors such as the attachment that negotiating parties have with terms such as “phase down” and “unabated,” and our focus centred on identifying optimal techniques for addressing these issues, with an emphasis on efficient lobbying and savvy mobilisation strategies. It was an energising event, and I was equipped with motivation and knowledge for the days ahead.

The following day, I had a meeting scheduled with the Honourable Senator Rosa Galvez at the Canada Pavilion, who has been a strong supporter of the KAIROS Women, Peace, and Security Program. During the meeting, I provided her with updates about the program, reiterated our support and excitement for her climate-aligned Finance Act (CAFA), and, of course, talked COP28 and my advocacy plans! It was a fantastic conversation. Senator Galvez is a truly inspiring and encouraging individual.

Yusra at COP28
[Left] Yusra with Senator Rosa Galvez – [Right]Yusra greeting Simon Stiell

Amidst networking, intensive preparation for high-level events and engaging in other advocacy opportunities alongside my delegation and the YOUNGO Conflict of Interest Working Group, I attended the exceptionally well-organised and very informative Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) briefings. Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend an all-Canada delegates briefing – which is one of my favourite COP events. These briefings, led by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and our new Chief Negotiator, Micheal Bosner, consistently serve as a fantastic display of unity, solidarity, and collective purpose. Beyond gaining an understanding of the national negotiation priorities, these sessions provided me with insights into the concerns and priorities of the Canadian public. I took note of these concerns and will amplify them in my post-COP communication and advocacy efforts.

Yusra at COP28
Yusra Co-facilitating the Bilateral

Lastly, I had the opportunity to serve as the Global South co-facilitator for a bilateral meeting between the UNFCCC Executive Secretary (ES), Simon Stiell, and a group of youth. We had the chance to directly ask the ES about what actions the secretariat was taking regarding youth inclusion, how they were managing issues related to conflict of interest, and, most importantly, what the progress was looking like on the revised Global Stocktake text, and how it will be dealt with in the future. It was a productive conversation, and I was very grateful for the encouragement and the transparency Mr. Stiell demonstrated throughout the conversation. I wrapped up the meeting with some closing remarks, and mentioned how we, as youth, hope that this meeting was a small part of a larger and continuing conversation.

Yusra at COP28
Group picture at the Strategy Breakfast

Finally, while I have a lot to say regarding the actual high-level negotiations and the final texts, I must acknowledge the leadership that Canada has shown on the global stage, as well as the final text recognizing that we are approaching the end of the fossil fuel era. That being said, this is just the beginning. While sometimes decisions can be frustrating, as a youth delegate, I remain hopeful – hopeful for stronger language, hopeful for progress, and hopeful for action.

By Yusra Shafi, KAIROS’ Global Partnerships Reporting and Administrative Assistant

Filed in: COP28


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