By Daniele Savietto
I could start this text with a well-written briefing on the resolutions of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. But the truth is, there are many people much better than me doing that. I would actually recommend that you read articles from Climate Action Network (CAN) or from WWF, check out summaries on the social media channels of La Clima or Clima Info, and visit the UNFCCC website to read the documents themselves because, after all, there’s nothing better than going to the source of information.
So, I share my experience with you and begin by quoting Adorno: “Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar”.
I discuss COP28 in a way that resonates with me and, in some capacity, contributes to this discourse that has become heavily influenced by the media. It’s about delving into the concept of love.
Indeed, I seek to draw a parallel between the undeniable scientific facts surrounding global warming, the resolutions emerging from a complex negotiation, and the prospect of embracing our diverse counterparts with love. It might sound unconventional, and perhaps it is.
My first COP was in 2013, and I left feeling profoundly inspired.
Not even the cold of Poland could cool down the overwhelming emotions of being there, witnessing up close a process I had only read about (especially because, at that time, the conference wasn’t as mainstream).
verything felt remarkable, and I had complete faith in the details. Because the conference was considerably smaller than it is today (in comparison to the one in Dubai, which is four times smaller), our access to negotiators and plenaries was more straightforward. Additionally, the Brazilian government ensured we had credentials as parties, further facilitating our movement within those halls.
That COP couldn’t even compare to the luxury we’ve witnessed here. It was held in a stadium, the side events were smaller, and the country pavilions were more modest. Nevertheless, the impression it left on me was unparalleled. I returned home thinking the UNFCCC was incredible.
I absolutely loved being part of the pressure at the protests (okay, it’s still my favorite part to this day). I didn’t miss a single Fossil of the Day ceremony and even had the opportunity to present the anti-award with the folks from CAN.
Of course, I was well aware of the flaws in the process, and I relished seeing people challenging Isabela Teixeira, who was the Secretary of the Environment for Brazil at the time, urging for a bolder and more ambitious stance. The Climate March was the pinnacle, and marching through the frozen streets while shouting was almost a cathartic experience.
In 2014, the COP took place in Lima, and it was there that my love for people deepened more than ever before. I relished the daily visits to the ‘Cumbre de los Pueblos’, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit an indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.
During that COP, I also started becoming increasingly frustrated with the way processes unfolded. If I had a magical power, I would have turned into a dictator just to put an end to the waiting game for consensus.
Now, ten years have passed, and the bureaucratic procedures have become increasingly unbearable to me in light of the growing global challenges. Even though the beginning of COP28 marked the approval of an important text regarding the Loss and Damage fund, I arrived with a sense of disillusionment and wondered: What am I doing here?
I’m deeply influenced by Adorno’s philosophy, and as I observed those in positions of power, I couldn’t help but recall his words: “The price that men pay for the increase of their power is the alienation of that over which they exercise power.” And here at the COP, we are indeed dealing with governments wielding immense power.
There are solutions, there is technology, and there is money available. This brings to mind the words of Almada Negreiros: “When I was born, the sentences that would save humanity were already written; only one thing was missing – saving humanity.” Permit me some poetic license to rephrase, saying that today, the solutions to save humanity are already written; only one thing is lacking – the act of saving humanity itself.
Why should I invest my time listening to those who understand how to solve the problem but refuse to act? Why should I dedicate my vacation to discussions about a gradual transformation that lacks the courage to confront the issue head-on? Why walk amidst so many lobbyists from the oil industry and companies solely focused on increasing their profits year after year, as if we inhabit an infinite planet? In the midst of a crowd well-versed in composing scholarly treatises, I’m reminded of Adorno’s words once more, and I ponder, “How stupid it is to be intelligent.”
Perhaps it would have been better to return home, pick up my daughters, and move to a countryside while we still have nature. At the end of the first day, filled with frustration, I turned to Paulo Lima, our our dreamer, and asked him if he still believed it was worthwhile. Of course, I received a lesson about the power of participation. Fortunately, Paulo imparts his wisdom with kindness.
Then, the people came. People who arrived there not even knowing how, to unite their voices and push for a minimally effective agreement.
I went to cover the youth protests. I engaged in conversations with organic farmers and was captivated by Kboing Widyarti’s simplicity. I embraced activists. I witnessed the determination in the eyes of 21-year-old Maria Gabriella from Tocantins, who educated me about the challenges on the transition agenda. I shed tears during the “COP28 Peoples Plenary Program,” where constituency representatives delivered impassioned speeches. I listened intently as Joseph Sikulu expressed his sorrow for the people facing serious threats of losing their land in the Pacific.
If you were to inquire about my thoughts on COP, the response is intricate and filled with ambiguity, much like life itself. I continue to be irked by the processes, and I find the final text lacking in strength. I do acknowledge that, for the first time in 30 years, the inclusion of fossil fuels was a victory, especially given the circumstances and the leadership in place.
The pivotal aspects of the text emphasize the operationalization of the Loss and Damage fund, marking a significant stride in aiding nations most susceptible to climate impacts. It acknowledges fossil fuels as a problem for the first time, emphasizing the need for a “gradual” transition. The commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement’s objectives and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C is also present. The development of national adaptation plans by 2030 is included. While these resolutions could be more robustly worded, they still signify a global commitment.
Nevertheless, I won’t gauge the success or failure of this Conference solely by the text.
It’s about what motivates me and feeds my soul; it’s about the people.
At the end of COP28, after the last protest that I decided not to cover and simply wanted to participate in, there was no need to convince me any further that yes, the Conference was worth it, and I wanted to be in Baku next year. Because being able to share in the emotions of those who are passionate about this cause fuels me. Because witnessing people take the microphone and cry while presenting statistics and speaking about their realities nourishes me. Because people truly are amazing.
There’s a magic in individuality, in looking into someone’s eyes, a magic that somehow we don’t quite see when we look at the masses.
Is this process perfect? Clearly not. Far from it. Can it improve? Absolutely.
It’s the process we have today, which, instead of taking the giant strides I might envision, is undeniably influenced by the dynamics of people who have left their homes and invested a considerable amount to be there, advocating for their communities. These individuals are truly captivating, and their passion deeply resonates with me.
Being close to them makes me appreciate who I am more and motivates me to work on who I can become. I believe I can become a bit more like each one of them.
The assessment of COP’s success or failure can be subjective, contingent on how the question is framed. From one perspective, it might seem like a failure, as I heard no mention of addressing the inherently flawed capitalist system, which not only appears ludicrous but is also fundamentally incompatible with sustaining life on Earth. However, with a different perspective, one could argue that COP was a success.
If, by some magical twist of the universe, I could choose the individuals to sit at the negotiation table and craft the agreement, I would bring in Gabrielas, Josephs, Paulos, and Kboings. I would include children, I would bring in real people to shed tears as they draft the agreements we need.
Because, as I’ve expressed in another article published in the Youth News Agency, emotions are strength. After all, how can you look at entire communities that are suffering and will continue to endure migratory changes, food crises, and many other problems, and not shed tears while planning the least traumatic course of action for them? I emphasize “least” here because the tragedy is already in motion.
However, even though I’m aware that these people are not physically present at the negotiation tables and in the meeting rooms, their voices echo in various ways.
It’s thanks to them that the final document we have today is minimally acceptable, and for that, I will always be grateful. I want to write and express my gratitude for them and about them.
The success of this COP is undoubtedly the success of civil society’s struggle.
As for whether I’ll be at the next one? I don’t want to betray the hope of that Dani from 10 years ago, and even less so conform to the world. So, as long as I can walk the halls alongside anyone who looks like a real person, I want to be at a COP. After all, it’s a conduit for change, and in the words of my beloved Belchior: “Loving and changing things interests me more.”