Wageningen students at COP28

‘The time for action has come.’
Protest bij COP28. Foto Zata Amani

Text Femke van den Dries

The climate summit in Dubai is one of the biggest ever, with some 100,000 participants, among whom are world leaders and students from Wageningen. How did they get there, and what do they hope to achieve during this week? Resource interviewed two of them

Zata Amani, master student of International Development Studies

According to the international community, my home country, Indonesia, is not doing enough to combat large-scale deforestation. How do they address this criticism during COP28? That’s what I am writing my master’s thesis on. WUR has been allocated access passes for the summit, and there was a spot available for me in the first week. Matters related to forestry and land use are on the agenda for the second week, but nonetheless, there is no better place to conduct research for my thesis. I have been able to speak directly with various general directors of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry on my topic. Everyone has been incredibly helpful.’

Zata Amani

‘In addition to what it means for my thesis, it is also a fantastic opportunity to learn and network. There are countless hubs at the conference where talk shows and other gatherings are being organized. These hubs are thematic or country or organization-specific. By visiting those hubs, I have had the opportunity to speak informally with a Nepalese minister and the CEO of a major scientific organization.

 As a part of the WUR delegation, I am also allowed to attend some of the negotiations.

‘As a part of the WUR delegation, I am also allowed to attend some of the negotiations. It is remarkable to see how structured they are. For my master’s specialization, I took the course Advanced Sustainable Development Diplomacy, where we were taught the technicalities associated with such a meeting. Anyone who has participated in a Model United Nations will also be familiar with it. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see the negotiations go precisely alike this week.’

‘The many negotiations at COP have, of course, also received criticism that they do not lead to enough action. As a visitor, you can feel that. For example, there are activists at the entrance of the political zone. It is already the 28th COP, and so far, mainly plans have come out. Now, we expect actions rather than words. I am curious to see if those actions really come after this summit.’

Kristina Smieskova, master student of Environmental Sciences and Youth Representative Slovakia

‘Interested in applying what I learned abroad back in my home country, I participated in a Climate Leader Academy in Slovakia. Later, I was asked to join COP28 as a youth representative. They had observed the participants throughout the week, and I was chosen, although there was no mention of this possibility beforehand. An amazing opportunity: now I am in Dubai as part of the presidential delegation of Slovakia.’

Kristina Smieskova

‘Before COP, I organized Youth Climate Citizen Assemblies together with an NGO, where we discussed the climate crisis and solutions with a broad spectrum of youth. We summarized their demands and had the chance to present them to our president, Zuzana Čaputová, during COP28. My experience is that many young people do not feel represented in policy processes. It, therefore, gives hope to see when politicians take us seriously. Besides Slovakia, many other countries also work with youth representatives. Here at COP28, we, as youth delegates, are trying to push for more ambitious and inclusive climate policies. While the EU has relatively ambitious climate policies, it should not assume it is doing enough automatically. We want a proactive stance from our governments.’

My experience is that many young people do not feel represented in policy processes. It, therefore, gives hope to see when politicians take us seriously.

‘As part of my role, I’m staying for the full two weeks and still have various responsibilities during my time here. I have already led a discussion panel with youth from around the world, spoken with EU negotiators, and will also get to be part of some negotiations. All of this has shown me once again how opportunities come your way when you dedicate yourself and follow your passions. I believe that’s also a good message for other young people who would like to do something like this.’

‘What happens at the highest diplomatic levels of the summit is not the only thing of importance. Of course, I have also seen this COP28 through a critical eye. It’s an immense event, but I believe there is added value from all attendees. Change must come from the community. What can we learn from each other, and how can we cooperate to fight climate change? Countless connections are being made here, and experiences are being exchanged. I will take this back with me to Slovakia and Wageningen.’

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