By SGA Executive Director, Gary Cuneen

COP28 – Day 4

Today was the first COP28 day for our 6 high school students from across the Chicago area, and their experience was the highlight of the day! They were wowed by the venue and thrilled to finally get their admission badges to the Blue Zone. Just this morning they had the opportunity to interview country delegates, hear Al Gore speak, and have a photo opp/chat with Mr. Gore and with Gavin McCormick, co-lead facilitators of the Climate Trace initiative. Climate Trace is a collaboration among 100 data organizations created to trace ghg emissions on city, state, country and industry levels.

IOF students with former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore.

Mr. Gore level set the reality we are facing, including the fact that global emissions has increased 1.5% (we’re supposed to be going the other way) and that 2023 will be hottest year on record and November the hottest November on record – by significantly higher margins. Unprecedented. The energy trapped by man-made emissions is equivalent to exploding 750,000 Hiroshima-class bombs per day 365 days per year. Mr. Gore emphasized that staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius is only possible if we phase out – not reduce – fossil fuels on a timeline. The level of human loss is unprecedented and extreme weather events now cost the global economy $2.5 trillion in the past decade – an increase of $1 trillion over the previous 10 years. In light of Climate Trace’s emissions tracking capacity, Gore stated that as part of COP 71 nations have submitted no data for any years and 108 nations have submitted no inventories for any of the past 5 years.

Which leads to the question we posed to Mr. Gore and Mr. McCormick…Why has the UN adopted Climate Trace as the official third party ghg inventory tracker for all nations? Gore said he is working on it, while McCormick wasn’t sure that Climate Trace wanted to be politically linked to the UN and COP. Since there data seems to be very accurate (satellites and AI), it made no sense to our team why Climate Trace isn’t playing this role, particularly given the abysmal reporting and tracking record of most of the Paris Accord countries. More to come on this.

Bill Gates on COP28 Health Day addressed attendees with the news that the “Reaching the Last Mile” Fund has received increased support totaling $500 million from the United Arab Emirates, African countries, the Carter Center, the Gates Foundation and other funders to support the elimination of the “river blindness” disease (onchocerciasis transmitted by black flies) not only in Niger, but in an additional 38 countries.

Our It’s Our Future students had the chance to interview 11-year old Indian climate activist Prasiddhi Singh (one of a few 11 year old Indian climate leaders) who explained efforts to plant trees on a large scale within India and other climate initiatives. Lastly on Al Gore…he is truly an extraordinary leader (probably the most impactful the climate movement has seen), and his words that fossil fuels need to be phased out (not reduced) are words that most of us would agree needs to be agreed upon at the COP for it to be deemed successful.