UBC, SFU student delegates discuss youth perspectives post-COP28

On March 27, UBC and SFU student delegates gathered with students, faculty and the public at SFU’s downtown campus to discuss their experiences at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28).

The panel was co-hosted by multiple UBC and SFU climate organizations and discussed representation in climate negotiations, equity and climate hope.

COP is an annual international conference on climate policy and action. COP28 was held in Dubai, UAE, from November 30—December 2, 2023, and was notable for discussions on losses and damages and the consensus to move away from fossil fuels.

“COP28 closed with an agreement, which signalled the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, laying the ground for a swift, just and equitable transition underpinned by deep emission cuts and scales up to finance,” said Elder Marie Hooper, from Kwikwetlem First Nation, as she gave the keynote address.

Hooper went on to talk about her experience as an Indigenous elder, highlighting the role that Indigenous peoples, specifically youth, play in climate action.

“We must get the young people involved,” she said. “They’re young and enthusiastic and they want our lands here in Canada to be healthy.”

After, the student panel began, with delegates speaking about their key takeaways from the conference. Abul Bashar Rahman and Mina Nepali were the two delegates from UBC.

Nepali also spoke on how important it is that youth are represented at these global conferences, stating that many of the domains or areas in the conference were run by youth.

“That was a beautiful thing that I witnessed at COP28,” she said.

However, she did note that there were certain aspects of COP that still need to be expanded to include youth, especially in the political and decision making areas.

“Sometimes it’s tough to see that their voices are not necessarily valued as those that are made by the government officials, even though they might be equally or sometimes even more knowledgeable,” said Nepali.

Rahman, an economics student from Bangladesh, said that the representation from the Global South was lacking, noting that some Canadian provinces had more representatives than entire countries, despite these countries in the Global South facing disproportionately worse climate impacts.

“That really affects what topics are talked about, what things are discussed, what policies are discussed, and that is something which is very interesting for me to witness,” he said.

Rahman, who also attended COP27, said he saw more representation at COP28. There were almost 97,000 participants in Dubai — many of whom were from the Global South.

“Things are changing for the good I’d say, in terms of representation,” he said.

Rahman screened his short film “Stories of Change” at COP28, and found he connected with people through the film's depictions of on-the-ground stories from Bangladeshi people facing the impacts of the climate crisis.

“I think when you're able to connect with someone on a personal level, it really makes you think about what life is like from their shoes and that is such a powerful tool,” said Rahman. “I think we often undermine that.”

At the conference, Nepali was often asked about how and why she is so optimistic about our climate. For her, it’s less of a want and more of a need.

“If youth don’t have the hope, then who will?” she said. “At the end of the day, this is our future.”