COP28 Event on ‘Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities’
by the Journalists and Writers Foundation
On December 5, 2023, the Journalists and Writers Foundation held a virtual event entitled “Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities” on the sidelines of the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The panel included experts, advocates, and youth leaders who shed light on the disproportionate effects of climate change. This event aimed to address issues aligning with Sustainable Development Goals #13 (Climate Action) and #10 (Reduced Inequalities).
Ambassador H.E. Mr. Narinder Kakar, Professor Emeritus and Permanent Observer of the University for Peace to the UN delivered a Keynote that emphasized the importance of policy development and implementation in integrating climate change adaptation. His Excellency underscored the critical role of inclusive policies, sustainable development, and community empowerment in addressing the challenges faced by vulnerable populations. Ambassador Narinder Kakar also stressed the need for robust policies to effectively tackle climate change impacts on these communities.
Scientists have issued a stark warning about the planet facing a climate disaster, nearing irreversible tipping points with melting ice, rising sea levels, and extreme conditions causing droughts, wildfires, and floods. In 2023, the Earth is expected to experience its warmest year on record. However, progress in cutting emissions has been slow, missing the targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The UN reports that, under current policies, warming could reach 3°C above the pre-industrial average by the end of the century, posing a devastating threat to the global population.
While the COP meetings review the situation globally, vulnerable communities bear a higher risk due to limited capacity and fewer resources to cope with climate change impacts. Climate change disproportionately affects certain communities due to existing vulnerabilities, historical inequities, socioeconomic disparities, and systemic environmental impacts. Over 90 vulnerable nations, including the least developed, landlocked, and small islands, are on the front line of the climate crisis.
The urgent need is to shift from discussing climate impacts to focusing on vulnerability and adaptation. This involves better disaster preparedness, infrastructure reinforcement or relocation, transforming water and food systems, and fortifying government funding and operations against climate upheaval. The 2023 Adaptation Gap report by UNEP highlights the slowing progress in climate adaptation, leaving vulnerable countries further exposed.
It is crucial to address adaptation alongside mitigation in the global response to climate change. The responsibility lies heavily on countries with higher financial resources, to be a part of the solution and align their conscious economic production in line with the guidelines of Sustainable Development Goals. Adaptation support needs significant investment for the developing world to reach $340 billion a year by 2030. The current support, according to the IPCC, is less than one-tenth of that amount.
Climate equity is vital, recognizing and addressing unequal burdens exacerbated by climate change. Principles for incorporating climate equity include engaging diverse communities, incorporating indigenous knowledge, considering solutions that boost resilience and improve livelihoods, and preparing for contingencies. Governments play a crucial role in developing proper adaptation plans, involving all segments of society, particularly the vulnerable, women, and youth. The call for developed countries to contribute is rooted in the polluter pay principle and the concept of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), acknowledging the historical responsibility of industrialized nations for environmental degradation. Urgent and collaborative efforts, guided by principles of equity and responsibility, are necessary to mitigate the impacts of climate change and support vulnerable communities worldwide.
Neeshad Shafi, Co-Founder of the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar discussed the global empowerment of vulnerable youth through inclusive strategies for sustainable change and leadership. His insights underscored the pivotal role of education, awareness, and advocacy in navigating the challenges posed by climate change. Speaking from the COP28 premises, Neeshad emphasized the urgency of fostering a generation of informed and engaged young leaders to address the impacts of climate change.
I strongly support the focus on vulnerable communities, especially in the Arab Middle East, given that we are hosting COP in Dubai, UAE. It i’s crucial not to overlook the challenges faced by these communities due to climate change impacts. Ambassador Kakar mentioned the debate around phasing out fossil fuels, which has been a major topic here. This poses a direct challenge to communities in our region, as they are directly impacted by climate change due to extensive fossil fuel use. Transitioning away from current fossil fuel consumption, both locally and in exports, is essential, but it must be done right.
The uncertainty and mistrust between parties, especially with young people and civil society, are evident. The world is off track to meet the Paris Agreement goals, and there is a need for real actions, not just numerical promises. It ‘is crucial to walk the talk and ensure that funds reach the right people. I hope COP addresses the concerns of the most vulnerable communities in the Arab region and worldwide. I also agree with Ambassador Kakar`s point that the Member States have a responsibility to embrace the climate crisis cost that they produce. Now is the right time to advocate for transitioning away from fossil fuels. It’s a unique opportunity to engage with oil CEOs, and we should explore how to channel their resources to support vulnerable communities, both in the Arab region and globally.
However, there are uncertainties about the modalities of fund distribution, and questions remain about how these funds will truly benefit the most vulnerable. Coordinating efforts among countries during COP8 is essential to ensure transparency, reach climate targets, and address the mistrust that currently exists. The challenge now is to translate promises into action and ensure funds reach those who need them most. We hope for a positive outcome that does justice to the most vulnerable communities in the Arab region and worldwide.
Peshang Hama Karim, a PhD candidate in Environmental Science and Regional Youth Focal Point UN1FY, addressed the critical importance of advocating for inclusive research and policies in climate change adaptation and sustainable development within communities. He stressed the active involvement of youth in decision-making processes. Speaking from COP28 in Dubai, Peshang underscored the necessity of fostering collaborative efforts that empower communities, integrate research insights, and engage the youth in shaping effective climate strategies.
Secondly, I want to highlight positive efforts from the youth. I am the regional youth focal point for the MENA region at the United International Federation of Youth for Water and Climate. We developed the Youth Development Plan and Agenda (YDPA) for Water and Climate, aiming to empower young people as change agents. The YDPA is a blueprint for action, urging stakeholders to adopt youth-related commitments in policies, programs, projects, and activities globally. Locally, we have solutions, and it’s a matter of how we, as various entities, can act collaboratively to solve the water and climate crisis. I emphasize the importance of acting now to meet the targets set by SDGs 6 and 13 by 2030. The YDPA emerged as a key instrument to unlock the potential of young people and accelerate progress in the water and climate sector.
We are only six years away from 2030, and significant action is required. The YDPA offers a menu of policies, programs, projects, and activities for stakeholders to consider and adopt as commitments. We have shown that youth can provide solutions for the future, and collaboration is crucial. I call for leaders to stand beside us, listen to us, and work hand in hand to solve the climate crisis, acting locally, regionally, and globally. Let’s unite for water and climate and let our actions flow for a better tomorrow.
Amanda J. Nesheiwat, Sustainability Director for county government and Founder of Envision Green, LLC, USA, emphasized the pivotal role of catalyzing global change through empowering vulnerable communities with inclusive strategies and sustainable solutions. She highlighted the significant impact of government intervention in implementing initiatives for sustainable development .
I appreciate Neeshad and Peshng’s comments, emphasizing the importance of local-level work by young people. Ambassador Kakar’s insights into the practicality of government roles and plans are also commendable.
In my experience, sustainability holds solutions for many governmental challenges, and understanding that sustainability addresses people’s needs, the environment, and the economy is vital for thriving communities. Local communities, whether urban or rural, must lead by example to create inclusive climate action strategies. The power of local communities should not be underestimated, as residents’ influence can significantly impact local government priorities. I’m actively involved in projects addressing environmental issues. For instance, the initiative to ban single-use plastics in New Jersey’s shore communities gained momentum due to public pressure. This led to the state of New Jersey banning plastic bags, preventing over eight billion plastic bags from entering the environment since 2022. Additionally, collaborative efforts are underway for a statewide plastics education campaign to further address the plastics crisis.
Another ongoing project involves developing infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) in response to public inquiries. The demand for EV charging infrastructure showcases the potential of collaboration between the public, private sector, utility companies, and advocacy groups. This project not only aims to provide charging infrastructure but also to electrify government fleets, setting an example for sustainable practices and collaboration is key to local government sustainability efforts. Sustainability should not be solely a government responsibility but should involve everyone adopting sustainable practices in their respective roles.
Dana Coppola, Program Coordinator at Embrace Relief, USA, discussed the impact of climate change on humanitarian activities and emphasized the urgent need for multinational collaboration to address the increasing challenges. Dana also stressed the importance of integrating climate considerations into humanitarian planning for effective long-term solutions.
Embrace Relief is, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that originally focused on disaster relief since 2008. At Embrace Relief, we have expanded our programs to address various global issues, aligning with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Over the past 15 years, our global network has assisted over 7 million people across 60 countries. However, the drastic impact of climate change on humanitarian efforts has become evident. Natural disasters have surged from 178 in 1980 to over 428 in 2022. Climate-induced disasters are intensifying, leading to increased migration, violence, and a rising refugee crisis.
Educating communities on disaster preparedness and response is crucial. Inclusive policy reform, early warning systems, and integrating climate considerations into humanitarian planning are essential. Implementing emergency broadcast systems, informing the public through pamphlets, and creating designated safe locations enhance disaster preparedness. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for humanitarian organizations to adapt their strategies effectively. Flexibility, coordination, and a focus on building community resilience are key principles in navigating challenges posed by climate change and ensuring a comprehensive and sustainable humanitarian response.
Priyanka Chahal, JWF’s Youth Representative and the moderator, expressed gratitude to all panelists and participants following the reflections session. She highlighted the event’s key takeaways by addressing climate change demands, an integrated approach with adaptation, inclusive policies, sustainable development, and community empowerment. This ensures a comprehensive strategy fostering resilience, equity, and long-term sustainability. The importance of empowering vulnerable youth globally was underscored, emphasizing inclusivity in climate action for diverse perspectives and solutions. Leadership plays a vital role in cultivating resilience and driving sustainable change, contributing to a more equitable and environmentally conscious future.
Involving communities in decision-making processes harnesses local knowledge, fostering ownership of sustainable practices. This inclusivity not only addresses regional challenges but also strengthens the global response to climate change. The implementation of sustainable solutions, advocating for inclusive policies and environmentally sound initiatives, becomes paramount in mitigating environmental, social, and economic challenges.