By SGA Executive Director, Gary Cuneen

COP28 – Day 5

Thrilled again to see our 6 youth – Avery, Tasha, Katie, Kate, Maiana and Danica – thrive so much and exhibit great poise and leadership at COP28. See a video clip (above) of a session they led on climate education and climate justice. Avery Smith made a very poignant comment (paraphrasing here) to the effect that it’s cheaper to destroy the planet and contribute to climate change than to make decisions on behalf of the planet….we need to make climate solutions economically viable for people with fewer resources.

Today began with an 8:30am protest emphasizing the need to phase out and not reduce fossil fuels, one of a few protests that received permits to take place. One of the early sessions we attended was held at the Canadian pavilion, and featured native Inuit indigenous leaders from north of the Yukon who are watching climate change deplete salmon, moose and caribou that they depend upon for their sustenance and destroy basic infrastructure they depend on for living. Speaking with Lorraine Netro – a Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation elder – gave youth and everyone a sense of the dire effects of climate change on their culture, sustenance, health, way of life and survival.

Another enlightening conversation was with representatives from North American Young Generation in Nuclear, who like a growing number of climate analysts are advocating for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which according to industry analysts are light years safer than older nuclear reactors, take up an incredibly less footprint per unit of energy produced than other renewable energy sources, and are consistent in output. They are advocating that SMRs be considered one piece of the climate solution puzzle and emphasize with data that deaths from nuclear power are infinitesimally smaller compared to fossil fuels and even renewable energy sources. More to learn on this one, including what to do with the waste.

Outside in the balmy 88 degree Dubai temps at a cafe, our youth met with US Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk, who generously engaged our youth in a Q&A session. When asked about the US’ 2% increase in emissions in 2022 and projections for the impact the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act will have on US emissions, Mr. Turk stated that indications are that by the end of 2023 the US will see a 3% decrease in emissions and that trend will continue as more projects are implemented. His response to the question about why the US is one of 5 countries globally increasing oil and gas permits, Mr. Turk suggested that a combination of geopolitical reasons related to the war in Ukraine was a factor and the need to grow renewables and reduce oil and gas at an even pace was another.

Hilary Clinton led COP’s first Gender & Climate plenary, with an international group of women leading the way to create funding that promotes well-paying jobs and training for women in renewable energy; increases women-owned and led businesses and eliminates obstacles for women to participate in the clean energy transition by providing STEM education, land rights and the removal of basic gender barriers that keep women from participating. 29% of all jobs in the renewable sector are held by women, and the group of extraordinary leaders all echoed the sentiment that we collectively will not be able to halt the climate crisis without the full participation and leadership of women.