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Reflections and Opinions from COP28

Representatives from the GRRIPP Global Team, along with the winners of the Womenvai Challenge held this year, share their reflections from their time at COP28, including their reflections on COPs' first ever Gender Day.

Reflections from Zahra Khan

I would firstly like to begin by thanking Womenvai for this great opportunity. The work we do at GRRIPP is to cross these disciplines and reach people who may not think about gender in the same way and because of this partnership, we were able to take our goals to the biggest international conference of the year. The side event took a while to organise and structure but in the end, it was successful. I am not too confident in public speaking (just yet), however I got the majority of what I wanted to say out and the students at UCL did an excellent job in demonstrating their projects on the true sustainability of electric vehicles. It opened the floor to some thoughtful dialogue and got everyone thinking about the need for a new narrative for climate action. It was a joy to take part in something like this and push for collaboration and education to address climate change.

Photo 1: After the side event with all of the panellists and participants. Photo Credit: Authors

The different themes in this year’s COP were engaging and highlighted the need to talk about climate action in a holistic way. It strengthened the point we made in our side event that social and physical sciences need to work collaboratively. Currently, climate change is viewed as two separate narratives: the technical angle of climate change (physical science) and the societal impact (social science). We dedicated our time at COP28 campaigning for both to be considered simultaneously when developing new policy frameworks. I was also excited to be part of the first ever Gender Day at COP 28. I started by visiting the technical dialogue on finance which was very informative and engaging with important discussions around the care economy, and how ‘green jobs’ are often overlooked. There were also important discussions on the problematic dialogue surrounding STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). When discussing STEM and gender, the conversation often tends to centre around encouraging women to enter STEM disciplines rather than reframing the workplace, attitudes and the economy on the gendered division of labour, knowledge and what is “women’s work”. Next, there was a panel discussion featuring Hillary Clinton where important points were made on how everything should be looked at through a gender lens which is a point we (GRRIPP and Womenvai) have been trying to emphasise during our time at COP.

"Social and physical sciences need to work collaboratively".

Having a dedicated day is symbolic but I couldn’t help but notice not a single male head of state in attendance and all the sessions were open, meaning none were high level/ presidential enough. Once again, it seemed that the topic of gender was a secondary thought and had been pushed to the side i.e. was not put on the same pedestal as climate finance, energy and urbanisation when in fact all these things carry a gender aspect. The day finished with a high-level segment on the new Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership with comments made from ministers from Denmark, the UK, and Rwanda. This partnership is a step in the right direction however something legally binding needs to be put into policy (and then practice) to ensure we reach equitable climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. The day showed that there is still a lot more we need to do to get women at the table (not even a mention of other hyper marginalised gender groups) but there is optimism in that grassroot organisation are really actors for change and are the ones making an observable impact - where we can actually see it.

"Once again, it seemed that the topic of gender was a secondary thought and had been pushed to the side"

Overall, it was a very rewarding experience, not only meeting with world leaders but also grassroot organisations by attending different events and the pavilions, and connecting with people from all over the world on issues that matter the most in the world right now. I hope the final negotiations do the people justice so we can attain a more equitable, healthy and sustainable planet.

Reflections from Miriam Zallocco

Attending my first COP was an initially overwhelming experience, given the multitude of people, events, and the expansive venue. Engaging with individuals from diverse organizations, backgrounds, expertise, and countries was enlightening and enriching. The opportunity to engage in conversations with current world leaders was nothing short of incredible. Witnessing people proudly embracing and showcasing their cultures added a unique and memorable dimension to the event. Furthermore, this experience served as a profound learning opportunity, broadening my knowledge about various aspects of climate change and sustainability that were previously unfamiliar to me.

Participating in the side event has truly been an exceptional opportunity, and I relished every moment of it. The platform allowed us to articulate our perspectives on critical issues such as lithium mining and the strategic use of technology for climate change mitigation and adaptation. We delved into the nuanced understanding that these impacts are not uniform but rather manifested differently across genders. The chance to contribute meaningfully to these discussions was especially fulfilling. Collaborating with knowledgeable peers not only broadened my insights but also fostered a rich learning experience. Serving on the panel and articulating my viewpoints not only bolstered my confidence but also provided an invaluable chance to absorb insights from fellow young participants, rendering the entire experience remarkably rewarding and enriching.

"We delved into the nuanced understanding that these impacts are not uniform but rather manifested differently across genders"

Personally, I have found the Climate Gender Day very interesting and a great milestone, but it is not enough. The issue of acknowledging the differential impact of climate change on women, a realization that took longer than it should have, is undeniably intriguing. It's disheartening that it took considerable time to fully recognize the distinct ways in which climate change affects women compared to men. While I support the idea of a dedicated day for women, I believe it's crucial for every thematic session to incorporate a focus on women's perspectives. Mere observance and celebratory overflow on the Gender Day seem insufficient; instead, this should be elevated to higher-level discussions and meetings. An additional concern lies in the fact that many events related to climate change are predominantly attended by women. To address this, it is imperative to encourage greater male participation in these events to ensure broader education and awareness, as it is not just a women's issue but a collective responsibility.

Photo 2: Gender Day at COP28. Panel Discussion on the new Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action. Photo Credit: Authors

"Mere observance and celebratory overflow on the Gender Day seem insufficient; instead, this should be elevated to higher-level discussions and meetings."

Reflections from Ella Bedford

The whole experience of attending the COP was very new and exciting but also not at all what I expected! COP itself was very interesting. The venue was very beautiful but much larger than I expected. There were so many different things to do, on each day there were big events, side events, different booths to visit and many more. I was disappointed at the amount of bureaucracy that took place. A lot of the main speakers at the main events spent a disproportionate amount of time congratulating and thanking one another and when they finally got on to the main substance of what they had to say, they just repeated the same empty words of the person who had spoken before them. The smaller events were much more inspirational and instilled a greater sense of hope for the future. The process of doing a presentation and then being part of a panel at a side event was a major learning curve for me. Previously, I had very little experience creating and then presenting a presentation, and certainly no experience at this scale. Although it was challenging, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and feel that I have learnt a lot.

There were some very inspirational speakers in the main event on Climate Gender Day, probably some of the best I’d heard throughout my whole time at the COP. Unlike other events there was a diverse panel of speakers, different generations, different ethnicities, and different backgrounds from which to approach the issue of climate change through a gender lens. Despite the importance of the issue and the talent of the people talking about it, the whole day did feel quite token. The turnout for the main event was significantly less than that of similar events that weren’t concerned with gender, or events that had a famous politician present – in the case of the main Climate Gender Day talk, Hillary Clinton. It was also disappointing to see that the vast majority of the people that attended the main talk were women, hardly a man insight. This seemed to cement the feeling that this day happened only to tick a box and that tackling the issue of climate change through a gender lens is still not a priority for the majority of influential people and organisations at the COP.

"Despite the importance of the issue and the talent of the people talking about it, the whole day did feel quite token."

Photo 3: Womenvai delegation with Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change Champion. Photo Credit: Authors


Dr Zahra Khan is the Outreach and Research Assistant at GRRIPP. She holds a PhD in Chemistry and works closely with Prof. Peter Sammonds (UCL) to influence policy regarding

gender responsive resilience. Zahra coordinates events to widen GRRIPP participation across all disciplines, with the aim to bridge the gap between STEM subjects and social sciences.

Miriam Zallocco is one of the winner's of the GRRIPP STEM Challenge in collaboration with Womenvai. She has just finished her first year studying Global Humanitarian Studies and has lived in several countries growing up. Miriam has witnessed inequality between the different countries and always wanted to play an active part in closing the gap and aspires to change the world through ensuring equal opportunities to everyone.

Ella Bradford is one of the winners of the GRRIPP STEM Challenge in Collaboration with WomenVai. She is a university student in her second year studying for an MSci in Theoretical Physics at UCL. Ella attended her first COP alongside GRRIPP and WOMENVAI, where she talked about the importance of interdisciplinary study to help combat climate change without disregarding the effects of modern technology on the global south. She is committed to both her studies in Physics and aiding the fight against climate change.


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