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  • Writer's pictureCallum Noone

COP28: A Reflection on Networking and Impact

Written by Callum Noone, 2023 COP Fellow

In December 2023, I had an incomplete vision of what to expect before attending COP28. While those with COP experience attempted to describe the event's scale, pace, and energy, it is hard to comprehend what one is walking into. Having now attended and had time to reflect on my experiences, COP28 was everything, and more, of what experienced ‘COP’ers’ had described it. I spent the majority of my time learning about new programs, initiatives and policies from across the globe, listening to negotiations, and attempting to locate pavilions in the expansive ExpoCity venue, all whilst navigating 15km a day. However, the highlight of my time at COP28, and my biggest takeaway from the event, was the power of networking and connecting with a massively diverse and knowledgeable range of people.

While the Global Voices scholars attended to learn, observe, and test our policy paper concepts, a large majority of the attendees attended with a specific professional purpose in mind. One attendee described it as ‘the world’s largest trade show’. In my eyes, I consider it the world’s largest policy networking event. The sheer variety of attendees and experiences presented one of the most amazing opportunities to connect with peers, professionals, academics, and public servants, all of whom had a specific interest or knowledge in an area of the movement. Being at COP offered unmatched access to hop from one amazing individual to another, learning more about their industry, current research or their own perceived purpose in the movement. This allowed abundant opportunities to pick the minds of those whose path somewhat mirrored my own and those who have had completely different socioeconomic and cultural experiences. The environmental movement is composed of a significantly diverse base, all of which have various interests, not all of which revolve around emissions.

A concept core to my thinking regarding environmental issues is to ensure that I am not adopting a ‘carbon tunnel vision’ approach. This refers to focusing purely on emissions reduction and ignoring the many other problems facing the globe, such as biodiversity loss, pollution, water scarcity and soil degradation. COP28 demonstrated that whilst emissions are still the predominant focus of many, given their effects on the aforementioned issues, many attempts to negate and evolve humanity's behaviour and systems to fix these problems. The environment has evolved to exist in homeostasis. Humanity and its daily actions globally are an artificial influence that degrades this homeostasis. For humanity to minimise the effects of climate change and ensure a clean and functional environmental system, we must ensure that ‘carbon tunnel vision’ does not cloud our impact on our environment and the solutions we devise to solve this crisis. COP28, and those I met, solidified my view on this concept.

A background consideration before, during and after my trip to Dubai was whether the scale of the event was reflective of the environmental concepts many of the attendees were passionate about. Does connecting with fellow environmentalists have the capacity in the long term to offset the immediate environmental impact of the event? This back-and-forth over the morality of attendance could easily send oneself into a spiral of self-doubt regarding one's intentions and purpose in the context of an environmental action movement. However, the world is not a binary. There is much grey that fills the gaps between moral absolutism. Yes, COP28 was a substantial event, and the scale of emissions, consumption and waste would have been considerable. However, by networking stakeholders across fields and industries, one can imagine how wicked problems that occur in one place may be assisted by the knowledge of another person elsewhere. At an individual level, such an experience may offset any concerns, as an immediate problem has been solved. If one scales this up to the planet, many problems are being solved, making the planet healthier. This concept may be further extrapolated to the knowledge one gained at the conference, and how this empowers a movement of continuous localised improvements. 

COP28 was an amazing experience. The week was full of exciting new experiences, and I savoured every moment. I look forward to hopefully attending again sometime in the future, and to paying close attention to the progression future COPs make in attempting to solve the significant environmental conundrum we have collectively found ourselves in.

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