By IOF student, Danica Sun

The highlight of my second day in the Blue Zone and fourth day at COP was the amount of youth I met and had refreshing conversations with today. I interacted with way more youth today than in the previous days and it felt great to be connected to the other US youth and join together our efforts at COP28.

We started our morning in the Blue Zone at the daily YOUNGO SPOKES meeting where they gave an overview of the day: what actions(protests) are happening, notable events/sessions, topics of discussion, and general information. Today was our first day at one of these meetings, and it also happened to be the day that candidates were giving speeches to be elected as regional YOUNGO Focal Points. It was encouraging to hear from these youth from all across the globe about how eager they are to serve the youth environmentalist community!

Next, the group split up as Tasha and I headed over to the U.S. Delegation Offices as we were invited to an off-the-record meeting with Trigg Talley, the lead U.S. climate negotiator and head of the U.S. COP28 Delegation. The meeting had about 10 US youth, 3 of whom were high school seniors, including us 2! The rest were mostly graduate school/graduated youth. It felt great to be in this room filled with all these driven young climate activists, especially because we’ve met so few of them and have been mostly surrounded by older delegates who weren’t all so passionate or direct about topics like the fossil fuel phase out. The meeting was a little slow, but despite that, I believe these conversations are important for building relationships between youth and decision-makers and giving youth the space to personally voice our demands and concerns. It was also one of my first meetings with a primary decision-maker so I appreciated the experience and opportunity. Tasha and I did have to leave the meeting early for our Climate Anxiety Panel, but according to the other youth, the meeting picked up after the first few questions.

Our Climate Anxiety Panel was amazing and just like for our Climate Literacy Panel, we had a really engaged audience. These conversations do not happen enough and I was glad to be able to voice my feelings on the topic and help our audience identify and voice their feelings as well. I was asked many important, thoughtful questions, and as I thought about my responses and feelings overall about climate anxiety I did a lot of self-reflection and voiced feelings/thoughts I had never voiced before. I learned a lot in that one hour despite being on the panelist side, and I along with the other panelists and attendees, faced difficult questions such as the idea of “will this ever end?”, “we’re only high schoolers, am I ready to be in the climate fight, to struggle with the weight of the climate crisis and my role, for the rest of my life?” (See this article about Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists navigating the difficulty, burdens, and transitions inherent in youth activism.) But, through these tough questions, I gained a lot of hope and advice from the audience members on how to deal with these ideas (again, our audience was amazing and they taught us so much despite being the ones we were “supposed to teach” as the panelists). I wished we could’ve stayed longer afterward to have one-on-one conversations with more of the audience members, but Tasha, Katie, Maia, and I had to rush off to a meeting we were invited to between US youth and senate staff!

The senate staff meeting was slightly better than the meeting with Mr. Talley, but still disappointing as a few of the staff gave off the impression that they viewed us as lower, but there were a few staff that were more engaged and tried to listen and respond thoughtfully to our questions and comment. However, they shielded themselves behind the IRA for many questions, talking about how big of a win it was and telling us youth that we should be doing more to spread education and awareness about the IRA and how to use its benefits. The IRA was a win, but definitely not enough, and I wanted to ask the staffers: “You tell us youth that the IRA would not have been possible without us, that we are being heard, yet we are not seeing the urgent action we need. What more do you want from us? What else do we need to do to get our voices across and fully heard to your side of the process?”

After that meeting, we did a ton of informal talking with the other youth. There was a heated walk & talk debrief as the youth left the meeting and all headed towards other commitments or lunch. We met Emma & Keanu, the co-directors of Fridays for Future NYC, which was really exciting as Tasha and I co-direct FFF Chicago!! Tasha, Emma, and I grabbed lunch together and it was really fun to meet another high schooler and talk about what our FFF chapters have been doing, as well as our COP experiences overall as 17-year-olds. We’ve met a lot of college students, but Emma and Keanu were the first high schoolers we met in the Blue Zone, and it was really refreshing to talk to them and relate to common experiences. After lunch, the 3 of us headed straight over to a debrief meeting between the youth at the 2 morning meetings with Mr. Talley and senate staff. I loved hearing how other youth interpreted what went on and their thoughts moving forward based on what we heard. At this and the 2 morning meetings, I felt a sense of connection and teamwork with the other US youth, something I hadn’t felt previously because we hadn’t gotten the chance to interact with them beyond the 90-member Whatsapp group chat.

We ended the day going to a Climate Education for Youth mixer, learning about projects and meeting people at booths, and a session at the Children & Youth pavilion on youth entrepreneurship and innovation. The mixer was a lot of fun especially because it was so global. We talked to people from Bangladesh, Germany, the UK, Mexico, and more, all advocating for climate education in their country in slightly different ways. This was empowering and insightful for the climate education movement in Illinois, something I have been involved in (and you can be as well!! visit

Today, like every other day, was full of meeting new people, learning their stories, and using our voices to amplify and speak for the youth around the globe, not at COP28. Friday brings more meetings with U.S. officials and exciting events to attend, and now that we’re prepped with some more experience under our belts, I’m excited for another opportunity to use my voice and engage with other youth. We will definitely be making the most out of our last day at COP28 so stay tuned!