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A young CCLer’s COP28 story

Vinay Karthik

A young CCLer’s COP28 story

By Vinay Karthik

Last December, I had the incredible opportunity to attend COP28, the 28th Conference of Parties, held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai. As part of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC, I was honored to be selected as a Media Logistics Manager to serve as one of 15 youth around the world on the YOUNGO Communications Team.

As a member of the Global Coordination Team of YOUNGO, I had previously helped with organizing the United Nations Local Conference of Youth USA (LCOY USA 2023) held in October at Washington DC, which led to the drafting of a U.S. national youth statement and contained policies such as a carbon fee and dividend. This was fed into the Global Youth Statement during the Global Conference of Youth and was finally presented at COP28. 

Being a victim of climate disasters such as Hurricane Sandy at a young age, I am driven to advocate for climate policies and encourage youth engagement in climate advocacy through communications. I currently serve as a Communications Leader for CCL’s National Youth Action Team (NYAT) and help make the voices of youth climate advocates heard through various platforms such as our national blog, Instagram account, and our upcoming youth podcast segment in Citizens’ Climate Radio. Leading communications for the NYAT has provided me with not only the technical experience of creating content, but has also instilled in me valuable communication, organizational, and leadership skills that helped me in handling the intense and fast-paced environment of COP.

Two days before COP28, I boarded the plane to Dubai at Newark Liberty Airport along with other COP28 delegates, ranging from college students and researchers to climate lobbyists and politicians. After a long and exhausting 13-hour flight, we finally arrived at the “City of Gold” and I took a Careem (Dubai’s ride sharing service) to my hotel, which was bustling with COP28 guests as well. The next day, I took the Dubai Metro to Expo City 2020, the venue of the conference. The COP28 arrangements were made at a massive scale, almost resembling a small city complete with electric trams for transportation between various zones.

During COP28, I had access to the highly restrictive “blue zone,” the formal conference space where world leaders came together for negotiations. My primary roles included planning, scheduling, and managing all of the youth media events at COP28 and covering the various youth engagements happening at the different blue zone pavilions, which are designated spaces for countries, organizations, and stakeholders.

I later expanded my capacity to include additional roles such as script writing and reporting on YOUNGO’s new broadcast channel YOUNGO TV which provided live broadcasts — like this one with former Vice President Al Gore simplifying the events and negotiations at COP28 to youth and the public. 

I also assisted in producing YOUNGO Frontline, a newsletter that provided updates on COP28. As part of this initiative, my team was able to meet and interview climate leaders from around the world and notable dignitaries such as former Vice President Al Gore and the Norwegian Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim.

Being the only minor and high school student on the team, I worked with other experienced members who had not only attended several COP conferences but were also leading professionals in their disciplines. During those two weeks at the conference, I grew very close to my teammates, and I was really inspired by their climate advocacy stories and their commitment to climate awareness and action, despite most of them holding full-time jobs outside of this work. While helping to cover an event or record a broadcast, I learned about their awe-inspiring resilience amidst adversity and saw how steadfast and self-driven they were in their commitment to climate advocacy, giving me great hope for the future.

Vinay Karthik

Vinay (second from left) with other event participants

Unexpectedly, I also had the chance to be interviewed and featured by Antenna 1, a Portuguese public channel. Outside of the Communications Team, I was able to connect with other climate advocates, some familiar and some new, as well as inspiring personalities such as Beksultan Nurgali, who led the execution of the “World Painting” and won a Guinness World Record for the highest international collaboration in its creation.

What I enjoyed most about COP was being able to meet individuals all around the world passionate about tackling the existential crisis of climate change through unique avenues and understanding the different projects or initiatives they are taking part in. Although I was unhappy with the increasing number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP, we did have some unprecedented successes such as the operationalization of a global loss and damage fund and an international agreement over a just transition from fossil fuels in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

The international unity and immense collaboration between climate advocates at COP has further fueled my hope for a more green and sustainable future.