Youngsters attend the first day of the Local Conference of Youth (LCOY UAE) in Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

Dubai: Young people in the UAE are gearing up to actively participate in the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to be held in Dubai with a strong dedication to taking action and launching initiatives related to addressing climate change and environmental issues.

A group of youngsters including university students and young professionals attended a national conference of youth on climate action and environmental sustainability in the lead-up to COP28 which will be held from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City Dubai.

At the Local Conference of Youth(LCOY) in the UAE organised by Dubai’s International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and Zayed University, the young participants made it clear that they are committed to making a positive impact and contributing to the discussions and solutions related to climate action during COP28 and beyond.

Maitha Albannai

Maitha Albannai, a student of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Zayed University, is already a climate champion after having represented the UAE at COP27 in Egypt. Armed with her previous year’s experience, Maitha is all set to contribute more when the global climate action meeting comes to her home country.

“I had an amazing experience last year. I was able to talk about the UAE’ climate journey, and I was able to show the world that the UAE is capable of doing a lot of things, even though it was a desert country just a few decades ago,” she told Gulf News.

Simulation event

Maitha will soon be heading to Cairo to attend a COP 28 simulation event. “It will be with the British University of Egypt. I will be able to teach other people from across the world about what the UAE is doing in terms of climate action and sustainability. I recently joined the Arab Youth Leadership Programme. I am learning how to negotiate in COP. I am going to implement it in Cairo and gain more experience that is required for COP 28.”

Speaking about her expectations about COP 28, Maitha said: My expectation is to talk about the stock hold and observe how countries are showing their commitment and if they will be able to achieve their goals.”

Sustainability in curricula

Aisha Al Kindi

Another climate champion attending the event was Aisha Al Kindi, a health, safety, sustainability and environmental engineer with Al Futtaim Contracting. With a master’s degree in architectural engineering specialised in design and energy conservation of buildings, she works passionately in energy sustainability.

However, she feels that awareness about sustainability should be part of all curricula. “The young generation is supposed to know that sustainability is a big issue and it should be in all curricula, not just a course for engineering or STEM students. I hope the governments will push for it,” said Aisha.

“I can see that the youth present here are excited about COP 28. Global warming is definitely an issue that is burning in the heart of the youth like me and we are committed to taking action to address it. We know there have been two major developments in terms of climate action through the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement from the previous COP meetings.

"The third magnificent movement in this regard is expected to happen here in the UAE at COP 28. I am eagerly looking forward to knowing the policies and strategies that the UAE is going to come up with to achieve its vision of reaching Net Zero by 2050. I am particularly interested in how this will be implemented in the private sector where I work,” she added.

Youth statement expected

LCOY UAE included interactive sessions and discussions between youth and experts from various fields on climate action, environmental protection, food and nutrition security, circular economy, education for sustainable development, and the UAE’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), among other things. The two-day programme also feature hands-on activities like Ghaf tree planting, competitions and workshops.

Dr Tarifa Alzaabi, director general of ICBA, said the conference aimed to actively engage young people in addressing climate change.

The aim is to encourage them to propose innovative techniques, understand the Sustainable Development Goals, and explore solutions for mitigating climate change, especially with the UAE hosting COP28.

Dr Tarifa Alzaabi

“Educating youth about their crucial role is a key focus, as they are our partners in shaping a sustainable future. In the end, there will be a youth statement that will be presented at COP28 and other global conferences. This statement amplifies the UAE’s youth voice on climate adaptation and mitigation.”

She said key actions for youth include reducing food waste, optimising energy consumption, and leveraging technology. “We also aspire to make them future scientific research partners, as science is fundamental to solving climate challenges,” she added.

Youth for COP28 and beyond

Sara Chatila

Sara Chatila, Communications and Advocacy Officer for the UAE at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, pointed out the interconnectedness of climate change with all Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring the necessity for climate action that prioritises the most vulnerable and ensures inclusivity.

She highlighted the importance of UN mechanisms, such as the UN Environment Programme, and international commitments like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The UN Secretary-General’s message stresses the urgent need for accelerated climate action. This acceleration is unattainable without the active involvement of young people, she said.

“To achieve and address climate solutions effectively, it’s imperative to establish appropriate frameworks that engage them, as they are among those directly affected by climate change. This underscores the significance of involving young people and creating new opportunities for COP 28 and beyond. So we talked about ways that youth can contribute to climate action,” she added.