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By: Nat Larsen

Reflection on COP28: The “Inclusivity” COP

Given my interests in the interdisciplinary impacts of climate change and international diplomacy, attending this year’s 28th Conference of Parties was an amazing opportunity to learn more about climate and the Middle East, witness international diplomacy firsthand, and meet others interested in this field. Currently a third-year student in the College, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Studies with a minor in Arabic language and a Joint Master’s degree in International Relations. Growing up in Houston, Texas, I was immersed in conversation on energy, from working at an offshore drilling company to learning about the local economy’s energy transition. Studying international law in classes and internships abroad, I attended COP to learn first-hand how international diplomacy can address this crucial ‘problem without a passport’ affecting everyone on the planet. 

Abdallah Al-Dardari speaks at the “Climate, Peace, and Security” panel

One of the most interesting panels I attended was called “Climate Peace, and Security,” where the Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Arab States, Abdallah Al-Dardari spoke. Discussing environmental challenges in the Middle East, Mr. Al-Dardari prefaced that currently 14/20 Arab countries are in an ongoing conflict. Instead of treating them separately, Mr. Al-Dardari advocated for international action and holistic policies targeting both. Rather than two issues, climate and conflict exacerbate the other, as environmental disasters force migration, limit resource access, and destabilize governments while political conflict impedes collective action to mitigate or adapt to climate crises. With complex and intersecting consequences, tackling the duality of climate change and conflict is challenging. However, Mr. Al-Dardi reminded the audience, “Don’t be discouraged…this is a great opportunity.” Given the high stakes of climate and conflict, addressing both problems brings high rewards, bringing a powerful potential for improvement. This discussion about climate in the Middle East interested me in the need for international action to target multiple, interconnected problems at once, halting the vicious climate-conflict cycle in the Middle East to target climate change globally. 

Following the panel, I discussed the connections between climate and conflict with an award-winning documentary-film producer and journalist from the Stanley Center. I enjoyed learning more about her work reporting on global peace and security and appreciated her enthusiasm for speaking with me. COP brings opportunities not only to learn through listening but also through connecting with others. Although just a student, I felt my own voice included at the conference, heard by the amazing global representatives I met who share my passion for these issues. 

John Kerry gives the Keynote Speech at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum

On our final day, I attended the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s keynote address at the Atlantic Council. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy for the African Union, opened the Global Energy Forum, emphasizing that COP28 would be remembered for its “inclusivity.” While focusing on climate change, COP28 embodies a unique context situated in Dubai and the Middle East, a region of oil states and heavily prone to climate crises. Although more needs to be done to involve and support the Global South in climate action, I heard Middle Eastern voices at COP28 during panels, networking events, and even casual conversations in Arabic with locals. Bringing together people of all nationalities, identities, and occupations, this COP fostered a space where many voices were heard—including my own. 

While back in Chicago, my experience of COP28 persists through the enduring connections I formed with others from all around the world, united in our shared interest in tackling this global issue. Continuing to learn from others, I plan to keep talking about climate and conflict and fostering inclusivity in organizing international events as the President of the Society for International Relations, working at a multinational firm next summer, and taking classes in these subjects as part of my Joint BA/MA. I am so grateful for this opportunity through the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago to attend the conference—it truly changed my perspective on these problems, and inspired me on ways to make my own impact on addressing climate change as a future diplomat. 

Learn more about the COP28 Student Delegation…

Areas of Focus: Climate Change
Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Law & Policy
Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.