At Cop28, the most vulnerable people must be heard

Indigenous communities, women and young people are among those most affected by the growing climate challenge

Members of the indigenous Pareci people of central Brazil with other participants at Cop28 in Dubai. Getty Images
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One of the goals of the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai has been to ensure that concerns of communities most vulnerable to climate change are heard. Whether it is indigenous peoples, women in fragile societies, or the youth, a warming planet affects certain groups of people disproportionately.

At the summit on Tuesday, Cop28 officials and other stakeholders held discussions with indigenous groups. Indigenous peoples, many of whom inhabit island nations, make up less than 5 per cent of the world's population and contribute least to greenhouse emissions, whether in the Central, South American and Caribbean regions, South Asia or North America.

Nonetheless, climate events affect them directly, as they often live beside natural resources and interact closely with the changing environment. Considering these communities protect 80 per cent of global biodiversity in a number of ways, including for example, watching over forestlands, climate solutions that seek to protect them can also help protect the planet. It is one reason why representatives of indigenous people are critical to the talks – and to keeping alive the larger goal of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Representatives of indigenous people are critical to the talks

The risks of overshooting this goal have been widely documented. Extreme weather events around the world foretell possible dire scenarios in case there is a lag among nations in doing what they must: lowering emissions and taking the other steps necessary to combat climate change.

Vulnerable communities, however, comprise millions more people across many countries, only increasing the climate challenge. In some of the more fragile regions and communities in the world, it is women who face acute consequences of climate inaction. A UN report estimates that nearly 160 million women and girls are at risk of poverty from climate change.

Having more women in leadership roles, particularly when it comes to climate dialogue and decision making, helps to ensure that these risks are taken into account. This is fortunately an area in which the UAE excels, with several of the leading roles in climate diplomacy – including that of Minister of Climate Change and Environment and UN Climate Change High-Level Champion – held by women.

The growing climate challenge also affects young people to a greater degree than others – a fact with which young climate activists are all too familiar. At Cop28, one such person, from Yemen, told The National: "I'm here not to present only my voice, but I'm presenting and carrying the hopes and fears of my generation. We are afraid for our future.”

Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, stressed to The National that part of the climate challenge will be overcome “given that this generation of young people are so climate-minded”.

The agreements reached by the end of the summit will be the most crucial markers of progress in the world’s climate fight. Those championing the cause of the world’s most vulnerable populations will be keeping a close watch on the agreements’ details, to see if those who have for too long been without a voice are being heard and action accordingly taken.

Published: December 05, 2023, 2:00 AM