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‘Climate change commitments must be delivered at a local level’, says Cambridge COP28 delegate





This was my third year attending a COP and the more I learn, the more I feel an urgent need to connect the international to the local, while also experiencing a sense of hope and optimism I’d not felt before, writes Antoinette Nestor.

COP stands for the Conference of the Parties (COP) and is the main decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. This was the 28th time the Parties – the countries that have signed up to the Convention – have met. The location of each COP rotates within the five different regions of the United Nations, which is why the meetings change location every year.

Antoinette Nestor, engagement manager for Cambridge Zero and Centre for Climate Repair, in Dubai for COP28
Antoinette Nestor, engagement manager for Cambridge Zero and Centre for Climate Repair, in Dubai for COP28

Being at a COP is like a time-warp, where one sleeps very little and absorbs so much information over short periods of time that a few days are needed to decompress and make sense of it all! Many people attend for the whole period, some for a few days, others just one.

COP28 was held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and started with the great news that an agreement on loss and damage had been established – and ended with a landmark agreement to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. There have rightly been criticisms about the lack of an explicit commitment to phase out or down fossil fuels, but also praise for making progress on transitioning away from coal, oil and gas.

COPs are not just about national governments though: representatives from civil society – NGOs, universities and youth organisations – also meet to discuss and agree on how to implement and drive international agreements forward.

Antoinette Nestor, second from left, speaking at a COP28 event in Dubai
Antoinette Nestor, second from left, speaking at a COP28 event in Dubai

I organised a few academic discussions about the role of climate change law, and also events on greenhouse gas emissions reductions. I spoke at a country pavilion (each country has a pavilion where they host events on their key national issues) on the role of legal education at the local level. I also spoke about the links between science and law at an NGO pavilion.

I also met amazing local leaders working on climate restoration initiatives and learned about how climate change is affecting their communities and what they are doing about it. This is where the sense of hope and optimism was felt the strongest, despite the lack of agreement on agendas such as the phasing out of fossil fuels.

In-person meetings open the doors for collaborations and future plans to work together for the benefit of communities.

Protesters at COP28 calling for a complete end to the use of fossil fuels (Peter Dejong/AP)
Protesters at COP28 calling for a complete end to the use of fossil fuels (Peter Dejong/AP)

Yet my thoughts direct me towards the role of women in these international meetings and how much of a voice we still need to raise. This year there were a large number of women representing different groups and organisations – though sadly not at the national government level. I read plenty of posts on social media asking “where are the women?” We need more women to bring the local to the international and voice our opinions as to what we want implemented at the local level.

Bringing the international to the local means support for women who want to get into politics and become involved in building a better and fair future for all. It means climate literacy being a key component of the school curriculum at primary and secondary school level. It means seeing climate change issues as part of a whole. It means making the best we can for the future of our families, our children and our communities.

It also means demanding much more from the national government and holding them to account by asking them a simple question: how are you going to deliver and implement the international agreements you have agreed to at COP28 at the local level?

- Antoinette Nestor is engagement manager, Cambridge Zero & Centre for Climate Repair, founder of social enterprise A Toy's Life and Beyond, and a Labour councillor for Castle ward.



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