MIT’s UN Climate Change Conference delegation reflects on proposed resolutions

Story: The MIT delegation “shared what they know about climate science impacts and solutions.”

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Members of the MIT delegation to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) reflect on major takeaways from the conference, Wednesday, January 17.
Photo Courtesy of Hannah Briggs / Center for International Studies

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) took place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 13 last year in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Institute sent its own delegation to discuss the conference’s resolutions, a tradition since the early 2000s. Some of COP28’s key points included tripling global renewable energy capacity, phasing out coal production, and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The MIT delegation consisted of several faculty members, staff, and students, and they held a meeting to reflect on what they learned from COP28 on Jan. 17.

The delegation was interested in transition finance and incentivizing institutions to fund renewable energy methods and regenerative agriculture. Other topics discussed included biodiversity, environmental justice, and sustainability technology. 

Nevertheless, the delegation said that exchanging ideas at COP28 was the most fruitful.

“I think some of the value added is that all of us can provide, for each other and for others in the MIT community, what we saw first hand and how we experienced it,” Evan Lieberman, Director of the Center of International Studies (CIS) Director and Political Science professor, said.

Drew Story, Managing Director of the CIS’ Policy Lab, added that sending the MIT delegation to COP28 helps diffuse knowledge, explaining that the MIT delegation “shared what they know about climate science impacts and solutions” and “provided technical expertise to negotiators, parties, UN agencies, and others.” In turn, the delegation “[learns] from other researchers, policymakers, community leaders, advocates, activists and young people from around the world.”

Runako Gentles ’24, who majors in Course 1, focused on ways to cut carbon emissions in his home country Jamaica. He described his time in COP28 as a “great networking experience” and said that he “learned a lot from the different panels.” 

“I got to connect with a lot of Jamaican delegates,” Gentles added. “It was really cool that, even though I could go to COP in the future many times, this was likely my last opportunity as an undergraduate to attend COP and to come up to people working in the UN.”

Gentles said that he aspires to work for the UN and that meeting Caribbean delegates at COP28 will help in his career. He added that attending COP-related events was “like a springboard, a jumpstart to actually being more impactful after” and that COP28 “was an amazing opportunity to just connect with people who [he] probably just wouldn’t meet everyday.”

Alessandra Fabbri, a PhD candidate at the School of Architecture and Planning, was also interested in environmental policies at COP28. She was specifically interested in the Paris Agreement’s Article 6, which emphasizes giving financial support to developing countries to address climate change-related issues.

Fabbri said, “I wanted to see the evolution of Article 6 in terms of coordination and cooperation between the different nation states, and how they were approaching carbon emissions offsets.” She continued, “There is still a reference to developing vis a vis developed countries [in the negotiations], which has been elaborated and analyzed and criticized a lot in literature, because it always begs the question—developing towards what?”

Fabbri explained that the “non-consideration of the deeper ramifications of those concepts” can strongly impact the COP28 negotiations. She also said that since COP 28 “had an exceptionally high attendance,” as there was a “strong competition for an entry into sessions.”

“There were some panels that didn’t have or had few attendees due to scheduling conflicts,” Fabbri said. “So that detracted a little bit from what I think the main point of this whole event, which is trying to find solutions for climate change.”

COP29 will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan from Nov. 11 to Nov. 24 2024. Any MIT community member interested in becoming a delegate is subject to an application process.