Reflections on Attending COP28 in Dubai

climate change climate justice cop28 united nations Dec 18, 2023

By Rev. Emily Carroll, Green The Church Northern Field Director
Pastor of Shady Grove United Methodist Church, Louisiana

Some door openings are certainly divinely inspired. This is what comes to mind when I reflect on my time attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in the United Arab Emirates. 

Known as COP28, this convening is an experience unlike any I have ever encountered.

There existed a rapid bustle of persons from all walks of life. Moving with haste and excitement, attempting to situate at various panels, meetings, discussions, protest, press conferences, dialogues, negotiation settings, and much more. It was a massive conglomerate of almost 100,000 climate-conscious persons and entities representing governments, heads of state, civil societies, public and private companies, faith-based organizations, environmental NGO’s, and the like.

Daily, I arrived by metro and made my way through the maze of the Dubai Expo 2020 Center. I traversed a wide courtyard surrounded with tall, white poles adorned with vibrant flags from various countries and encountered a colorful sea of people from around this great world, we call Earth.

As a Delegate of the United Methodist Church, my roommates were Rev. Laura Kigweba, from Washington, D.C., and Shamiso Winnet, a Methodist environmentalist from Zimbabwe. What a joy to witness this experience beside my Black women colleagues—another divine handprint.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiated this annual Conference Of the Parties, twenty eight years ago (COP28). You may ask who are the parties? The parties are the various countries that make up the United Nations (UN). 

A few of the high-level agenda items included:

  • Loss and Damage—how developing countries can be financed and funded to transition away from oil and gas toward new renewable energy.
  • Global Stocktake—taking inventory, as per the Paris Agreement. Looking at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action.
  • Phasing out of Fossil Fuel Emissions—which on the last day of the conference yielded an agreed upon a mission to “transition away from fossil fuel”.

On the opening day, November 30, 2023, we all gathered to hear from the COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber; an engineer, businessman, politician, and Chair of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. There has and continues to be many questions about and protests of how a Climate Change Conference with the aim of tackling the harm of emissions could select such a person to serve as president. However, with such knowledge many pressed forward to be in attendance. For one can not contribute to conversation if one is not present.

Presence is pivotal to change; and as the Executive Director of Green the Church Louisiana,  a state which is one of the greatest producers of toxic emissions, how could I forgo such an opportunity to be present and to allow my voice to be heard?

The Conference began on a high note with pledges of monies toward the loss and damage fund, a total of $700 Million. The amount was critiqued for it falls massively short of what is needed, however, the buzz on the grounds created an element of excitement and optimism.

I attended many panel conversations and meetings as the days progressed:

  • Accelerating Feminist Solutions to the Climate Crisis 
  • Climate Action Network updates on Negotiations
  • Communities Based Solutions Panel—Hosted by the HBCU Green Fund 
  • Climate Reality Reception 
  • Global Stocktake (GST) Contact Group—SBI 8/SBSTA5
  • Building a Clean and Equitable Global Economy with the Inflation Reduction Act—In the US Center, Hosted by the White House

I am grateful that our nation's administration understands that our earth is warming exponentially, and it is our responsibility as humankind to mitigate the ails of climate change; especially in the black community. As an African American female clergyperson, I was proud to grace the grounds with braided hair, large hoops, silver bangles, burgundy matte colored lipstick, tennis shoes, and a grey backpack; what I classify as one of many urban signature looks from the United States. 

There are not many African American who attend this annual convening. So, to bring voice from rural Louisiana, to bring voice from Black Church Communities across our nation, to bring voice from the urban settings of America where many of our poor neighborhoods are given up as sacrifice zones, the presence of Green The Church allows the inclusion of people who are often lost in the shuffle of life.

Having the privilege of attending COP28 in Dubai has definitely impacted my call to ministry. It opened my eyes to the majestic works of God on a global scale to witness people of all walks of life coming together despite various languages, skin tones, and cultures, and pressing toward a common goal. For COP28, that common goal is limiting global warming to 1.5% Celsius. This front row seat to international diplomacy helps me to press forward with leading ministry in my context as Pastor and Nonprofit Leader. All things are possible with God. There may be differences of opinion, there may be difficulty in decision making, there may be present contention, but I trust that God desires that we all thrive and not merely survive. And to contribute to this cause of Justice is a mandate. However Stony the Road we Trod, I know I do not tread this road alone.