Why should I care about COP28? 5 things every student must know

Posted in: Student blog

Get the scoop on COP28 from student and Climate Champion Oscar Williams. Read his blog to learn about COP28 objectives, key takeaways, and how you can make a difference.

So, what is the COP28 Climate Conference?

Last year, from the 30th November to the 12th December, political and business leaders from across the globe headed straight for the world-renowned hub of climate progress. King Charles II, Bill Gates and Rishi Sunak, among many others, converged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (otherwise known as COP) to discuss the existential threat of man-made climate change. Some participants arrived with good intentions, others not so much. So, what did COP28 actually achieve? Was this a step towards a sustainable future or simply a PR opportunity? Probably a bit of both.

Many positives have come from COP28. However, there have been downsides to hosting it as a major oil-producing country. To every climate activist’s delight, the UAE’s envoy for climate change, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who just so happens to be the CEO of the largest oil company in the country, was delegated to assume the role of conference president. Although COP should not be an opportunity for CEOs to further oil interests, enabling people such as Al Jaber to work in collaboration with renewable energy advocates and climate activists, especially young people, is a major step in increasing accountability for the biggest perpetrators of climate change.

But why do you need to know all this when you have coursework to submit next week? Here are 5 things that came out of COP28 and why they're relevant to you:

1. Every country pledged to achieve net zero by 2050

The representatives from almost 200 countries agreed to a final agreement to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” The goal is to prevent global temperatures from increasing over 1.5°C degrees. If this is achieved, the negative consequences of climate change may be manageable; however, if enough countries are not true to their pledges, the results could be catastrophic. As the demographic with the lowest election turnout, young people can ensure the target is met by their government by voting for parties with the best climate policies at both the local and national levels.

If you live in the UK and would like to find out whether your local politicians have been engaged on the topic of climate change, go to theyworkforyou.com and search for your postcode. You will be able to see a complete record of your MP’s voting history in parliament.

2. The appointment of the Youth Climate Champion (YCC)

Despite the over-representation of fossil fuel interests at COP28, strides have been made in youth participation. 30-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui, the minister of state for youth affairs in the UAE and the youngest member of the UAE cabinet (at 22) when she was appointed in 2016, was appointed as the Youth Climate Champion. Her role during COP28 was to engage people under 35 in the COP negotiations, especially those in the most vulnerable communities such as indigenous peoples and those with disabilities.

Al Mazrul represents the importance of governments granting opportunities to the next generation in the fight against climate change. If you also want the opportunity to be more proactive on climate action, it doesn't necessarily need to be at this level and you could consider joining the People and Planet Society who meet weekly to discuss social and environmental issues on campus.

3. Business representatives outnumbered government officials

For the first time in history, the representatives of private firms outnumbered public officials at COP. This reflects the realisation of many business leaders that companies reliant on fossil fuels will not survive in the future. There will likely continue to be a major shift towards renewable energy in the future, and commodities such as oil and coal will become much more expensive.

But should the future of the planet be decided by wealthy CEOs who still aim for maximum profits at the end of the day? Government regulations are still vital to limit emissions as there is no guarantee that all businesses will decide on their own terms to become carbon neutral. Another great reason to make sure you vote in local and national elections.

4. Human rights took a backseat

Human rights are a key aspect of climate action as millions of people across the globe are already suffering from starvation, flooding and displacement as a result of climate change and, broadly, those least responsible for causing the climate crisis are those suffering its worst consequences. Climate change is a human rights issue. Despite this, COP28 was hosted by a country with a horrific human rights record. Abuse claims are widespread and include passport confiscation, unsafe working conditions, wage theft, exorbitant recruitment fees and poor living conditions. Additionally, the Emirati legal system has little regard for civil liberties; homosexuality in the UAE is punishable by death, and journalists are routinely imprisoned without a fair trial. The inhumane treatment of people should never be tolerated by the international community.

Human rights must be at the core of decision-making when it comes to taking climate action to ensure truly sustainable and equitable solutions for all. To find out more about modern slavery, Anti-slavery International have lots of great resources and articles.

5. The focus on accountability

The COP28 presidency established the Net-Zero Transition Charter. Private companies that signed up agreed to openly publish their net zero targets and progress so that consumers are aware of how they are doing. This may encourage other firms to make their progress towards decarbonisation available to the public too. Therefore, if possible, you should check if your go-to brand has made targets to reduce their carbon emissions and, if so, whether they are achieving them. You can check companies' websites but I'd also recommend tools such as Ethical Consumer where they do the fact-diving for you.


Whilst COP28 definitely had its fair share of criticisms, UN nations (even oil reliant ones such as the UAE) have almost unanimously concluded that fossil fuels must be phased out if global net zero is to be achieved by 2050. Emphasis has also been placed on the importance of young people in the existential challenge to reduce global warming. Our generation of students could be the ones who finally repair the environment for good. The graduates of the next few years such as economists, scientists, politicians and business leaders will be the key to finally reversing man-made climate change.

Find out more and take action:


Oscar Williams

One of our current Climate Champions and who is currently studying International Relations and Modern Languages. 

Posted in: Student blog


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