As Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) begins its COP28 journey as part of SGA’s It’s Our Future youth sustainability leadership program, the stakes are high. This year we are sending 6 high school students from 5 different schools across the Chicago area. Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson and River Forest President Cathy Adduci will also be attending COP28. They are part of the leadership team that founded the Cross Community Climate Collaborative (C4), which also includes Village of Oak Park President Vicki Scaman and Darnell Johnson from the Urban Efficiency Group.

Researchers say there’s now a 66% chance we will pass the 1.5C global warming threshold between now and 2027. The chances are rising due to emissions from human activities and a likely El Niño weather pattern later this year. If the world passes the limit, scientists stress the breach, while very concerning, will likely be temporary. We are currently at a 1.2 degrees Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels, and global emissions continue to rise.

While Pope Francis and King Charles III and other world leaders will be attending, neither US President Biden nor Vice President Harris will be attending, citing the need to attend to the Israel-Hamas and Ukraine-Russia wars as reasons. It is not typical for presidents of countries to attend every year, and pundits say Biden’s absence also signals that there are unlikely to be any key outcomes at COP28 that he can influence. This November, President Biden and President Xi of China signed a major pact to boost renewables to replace coal and gas production.

There has been considerable discussion about why the United Nations selected Dubai to host COP28, given that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been built upon oil money. Many opinions suggest that the UAE is emerging as a global center for innovation in response to the climate crisis (and in many other areas, including the engagement of youth in leadership positions across sectors – 60% of COP28 UAE delegates are youth), and that its commitments and actions are pushing the envelope and setting an example for what can be done. The UAE is vulnerable to sea level rises and extreme heat and has created its Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative – the first country in the region to introduce emissions targets across a wide range of industries and economies.

UAE’s efforts are not at local or regional levels only but on the global level as well, UAE has invested around $17 billion in renewable energy projects in more than 70 countries across six continents, with a special focus on helping out low-income countries and developing nations. Some of its projects include a large-scale vertical farm that produces 100 million lettuce plants in the desert; the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum 5,000 megawatt solar farm (underway with 2030 as its full completion date) – the largest in the world; and its Sustainable City – a model for new city development across the UAE.

More to come…

Gary Cuneen

Founder and Executive Director, Seven Generations Ahead

Credits: Matt McGrath, Environmental Correspondent; Gulf News; Sierra Club