In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, the UAE’s newly appointed Youth Climate Champion for COP28 Shamma Al Mazrui discusses the importance of putting young people at the center of the country’s fight against climate change.
“Young people are the most affected by climate change,” Al Mazrui explains, “Their futures, their income, their families, their sense of security are all at stake.”
Al Mazrui is a key leader of the COP28 conference, scheduled to take place later this year in Dubai.
Her role as Youth Climate Champion is a new position, designed to elevate global youth voice throughout the COP process.
“The point of COP and the UAE leadership’s vision for COP is, it’s not just a conference for us, it is in fact a community building exercise to foster learning and action to amplify the voices of everyone involved,” she says.
Key quotes from Shamma Al Mazrui:
On the importance of youth involvement in the climate fight:
“Young people are the most affected by climate change, their futures, their income, their families, their sense of security are all at stake. And that’s why you see them the most engaged, most committed, most passionate about it. But also climate change is just so complex. It needs us to reimagine, rethink and redesign how we live, how we eat, how we work, how we consume, how we produce. And that needs new potential, and new ideas. And the UAE leadership believe young people are able to bring that new angle and new lens to that.”
“There’s 4.4 billion people below the age of 35… they can shape economic and social trends, they’re not attached to a certain conventional system. That is power. And the UAE understood that power years ago, and that’s why they harnessed that power to create the Youth Empowerment Model. And today, with the Youth Climate Champion, the goal is to really take that UAE Youth Empowerment Model global. And what do I mean? There’s 27 COPs that happened, there has been hopeful momentum and movement towards climate and youth involvement. But you’ll notice the rate of the number of youth advocacy and activist groups is increasing dramatically. And it’s not at the same pace of youth’s access to decision-making. So there is an imbalance that they really noticed.”
On her role as the Youth Climate Champion:
“Our job in the Youth Climate Champion is to elevate the voices of all youth around the world, global youth, those from indigenous communities, those from climate vulnerable states who really haven’t been included in COP.”
On the importance of COP28:
“The point of COP and the UAE leadership’s vision for COP is, it’s not just a conference for us, it is in fact a community building exercise to foster learning and action to amplify the voices of everyone involved.”
“This is the most important COP after COP21, because it is the global stock take. We are going to look at our stated ambition, but we’ll also compare it to reality. And I’ll be honest, from youth’s voice, we are off track as the world, but it’s the most important COP because the UAE is determined to ensure that we scale up mitigation efforts to keep this 1.5 alive. We want to deliver on the global goals of adaptation to ensure that we really decarbonise the energy sector. And the UAE is setting a trend here, especially in spearheading ADNOC’s decarbonisation strategy, and it’s net-zero strategy by 2050. But we want to also unlock climate finance for the climate vulnerable communities. But we want to operationalise the loss and damage fund to ensure that we reach the climate ambition. And here, climate finance plays a big role. But the last thing that UAE I think wants to really focus on as well is to have an innovative COP process that leaves no one behind. And that begins by putting inclusion at the heart.”
“This is a COP…[that] is committed really to ensure the inclusion of all stakeholders, ensure it’s a COP that’s actionable on solutions, and is accountable on actions, and for commitments. And let me go back to inclusion. I’ll talk about the youth part, but also talk about inclusion of everyone. When we talk about youth, everyone’s voice is included. One of the biggest initiatives that have been launched today …is the International Youth Delegates Program, which is one of its kind, and we hope it’s going to be a legacy for the UAE, to invite a hundred young people from small island developing states and least developing countries to be part of COP in November, and to be able to shape decision-making and be in the climate negotiations. That’s one of its kind.”
On those protesting against COP28:
“We welcome them. We’d love to hear from them. In the UAE, we want everyone on the table. Their voice is important, and I think them advocating means that they’re passionate about this, and we need that passion. And the message we hear from leadership is, “Yes, we know youth understand the finite property of this earth,” but they believe that youth have the abilities and skills to drive that change. And the UAE leadership wants young people to be present, engaged and leading the change at COP.”