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COP28: the COP of the youth

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By Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

· 8 min read


The 28th Conference of the Parties stands as a concrete global platform, commanding attention and hope as the world unites to address the pressing challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability. It brings together world leaders, policymakers, scientists, and activists from across the globe to forge agreements, collaborate on solutions, and set forth strategies. 

Within this global arena, the voice of the youth has grown stronger, demanding attention and recognition for their rightful place as catalysts of change. Today's youths are empowered and are not idle bystanders — if anything, they have proved to be fierce advocates for environmental justice and sustainability. Through movements like Youth 4 Sustainability and the Global Youth Climate Strike, they have shown their power to mobilize and execute action. 

Thus, in this pivotal moment, COP28 presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between generations, unite diverse voices, and cast a collective commitment to combat climate change. As COP28 unfolds, the world looks to the youth, recognizing their indispensable role in shaping global climate action and paving the way for a better, more sustainable world.

A youth-led climate awakening

The world has witnessed an extraordinary climate awakening, one that has been sparked and propelled by the passionate voices of young activists. Their unwavering commitment to addressing the climate crisis has reverberated across continents, demanding immediate attention and urgent action from leaders and policymakers. 

The climate awakening has seen its definition with the Fridays for Future movement, inspired by the remarkable activism of Greta Thunberg. With her resolute determination and powerful speeches, Greta ignited a spark that spread like wildfire, inspiring millions of young people to take to the streets with a resounding call for climate justice. The sight of schoolchildren leaving their classrooms to protest, holding banners, and demanding action, sent a clear message: the youth refuse to inherit a world ravaged by climate change. It was clear, that this wildfire would have a larger effect on the shaping of our modern world. 

It was inevitable that leaders and policymakers would take notice. The impassioned call for change, coming from the very generation that stands to bear the brunt of the climate crisis, has become once again impossible to ignore. The youth-led protests have served as a wake-up call, jolting world leaders into action and pressuring them to prioritize the urgent need for sustainable policies and practices.

Moreover, this youth-led climate awakening had a rather holistic effect it has shown the ability to transcend borders, cultures, and backgrounds. Young activists from every place on our earth have united under a common stance, finally realizing the shared fate of our planet. Through the power of social media, their messages have spread rapidly, rooting a sense of global solidarity and collective responsibility. 

As we gather for COP28, the influence of this youth-led climate awakening cannot be dismissed. The demands and perspectives of the youth are essential in shaping the policies and commitments that will emerge from this critical conference. Their brilliant determination and unwavering spirit serve as a reminder that the fight against climate change is not limited to a single generation but requires a united effort from all stakeholders. 

It is obvious now that the youth-led climate awakening represents a turning point in our overall response to the climate crisis, igniting hope and inspiring transformative action. It is a testament to the power of young voices and a call to catalyze their impassioned plea for change.

Empowering youth-led initiatives

Looking beyond their powerful protests alone, the youth are also driving change through innovative initiatives and projects. It is important to highlight the contributions of young changemakers in spearheading renewable energy projects, community-based climate resilience programs, and sustainable practices. It is their fearless approach to sustainability and technology that redefines traditional solutions and paves the way for a greener future, with COP28 providing a global platform to showcase and amplify their efforts. 

Youth-led initiatives have been at the forefront of advancing renewable energy solutions. From solar energy projects in rural communities to wind farms powering cities, young innovators are harnessing the potential of clean and sustainable energy sources. Their commitment to a future free from fossil fuels has prompted them to develop creative solutions, such as portable solar panels, microgrids, and energy storage systems. In the field of renewables, IRENA has been championing youth impact. With its many programs and initiatives, recently announced its Next Gen Accelerator Platform, which aims to support the development and implementation of renewable energy solutions. 

Young activists are actively engaging with their communities to build resilience against climate change. Through their profound efforts, they are empowering vulnerable communities to adapt and thrive in the face of environmental challenges. These initiatives include community gardens, urban reforestation projects, and sustainable agriculture practices. By involving residents and promoting sustainable livelihoods, youth-led programs are fostering resilience, reducing vulnerability, and creating models of community-based climate adaptation that can be replicated worldwide.

The youth's fearless approach toward sustainability and technology is revolutionizing traditional practices. They are harnessing the power of innovation, from blockchain and artificial intelligence to smart city solutions and circular economy models. By challenging existing systems and promoting sustainable alternatives, young change-makers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Their initiatives include zero-waste campaigns, eco-friendly fashion movements, and innovative recycling programs. These sustainable practices not only minimize environmental impact but also inspire others to adopt more responsible behaviors.

The empowerment of youth-led initiatives is instrumental in driving innovation for a sustainable future. Through renewable energy projects, community-based climate resilience programs, and sustainable practices, young change-makers are challenging the status quo and pushing for change. COP28 serves as a global stage for these initiatives, providing a platform to showcase their efforts and foster collaboration. As the world grapples with the urgency of our climate crisis, the voice and passion of young innovators offer hope and tangible solutions. It is essential to support and amplify youth-led initiatives, as they hold the key to a more sustainable and resilient future for all.


The United Arab Emirates has emerged as a global leader in youth empowerment and climate action, setting an inspiring example for the world. As COP28 approaches, the UAE’s commitment to engaging the youth and driving sustainable change is gaining momentum. Luckily, The UAE recognizes the crucial role of youth in shaping a sustainable future. Through its various initiatives, the UAE has been actively empowering young people to participate in climate action and contribute to global efforts. 

Demonstrating its commitment to youth engagement, the UAE has appointed the first-ever Youth Climate Champion, H.E Shamma Al Mazrui, who will represent the voices and aspirations of young people at COP28. She is well known for her youth advocacy in the Emirates as Minister of State for Youth Affairs. She will be actively advocating for ambitious climate goals, innovative solutions, and the inclusion of youth perspectives in decision-making processes. 

The Youth Climate Champion Office has showcased its effort on the road to COP28 by releasing its four main pillars for youth engagement, “PAVE”: Participation, Action, Voice & Education. With the pillars announced, the office also announced the International Youth Climate Delegates program to expand youth participation from underrepresented groups in climate change policymaking.

In addition to global efforts, the UAE has been spearheading local initiatives to address climate change and empower its youth. The country has launched projects such as the Youth Sustainability Network, The University Climate NetworkThe Youth 4 Sustainability Initiative, COP28 Youth Advocates, and many more, of which they all plan to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among young sustainability leaders. 

As COP28 approaches, global stakeholders have high expectations for the conference to deliver ambitious commitments and concrete actions to combat climate change. Youth activists worldwide are calling for bold targets, increased financial support for climate mitigation and adaptation, and stronger international cooperation. 

The UAE's role in COP28 goes beyond hosting the conference: it embodies the spirit of youth empowerment and climate action. The country's progressive policies and initiatives have young activists from around the world excited to be in the UAE for this COP, they anticipate an inclusive and impactful conference that will drive global ambition and accelerate the transition to a sustainable and resilient future. 


The youth-led climate awakening has ignited a powerful global movement for climate action. The youth’s fearless outlook and their willingness for adventure have revolutionized innovation and transformed many taboos regarding climate change. Finally, the UAE’s efforts towards youth engagement and their successful progressive policies are making this COP a long waited conference to ignite hope and continuity. 

As a youth, I can say that we are all looking forward to having these expectations fulfilled, but it is more important for us all to unite in this fight against climate change. It is important to remember our planet and forget about our agendas. Thus, let’s get our act together and fight for our planet!

Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi is a student, Emirati Journalist for Khaleej Times, Member of the YOUNGO COP28 Team, a member of IRENA YOUTH, a diplomacy student at the UAE Ministry of Education and a Sustainability Ambassador for Masdar (Y4S).

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