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Looking back at COP28: ‘It will not be business as usual’

News Climate
Yemen -

Climate change is impacting conflict-affected and fragile countries at an alarming rate. That’s why a delegation of Cordaid experts travelled to the COP28 in Dubai last week to attend various sessions related to this pressing topic. We look back and reflect on COP28 with Mohammed Abdulrahman, programme coordinator for Cordaid in Yemen.

The representatives of Cordaid at the COP28 in Dubai. From left to right: Peter van Sluijs (coordinator of the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding), Nynke Schaap (expert on climate, peace and security) and Mohammed Abdulrahman (programme coordinator in Yemen). Image: Cordaid

‘My feeling about the COP28 is quite ambivalent’, Mohammed says during a call on the day of his return to the city of Aden, in the south of Yemen. ‘The outcomes are simply disappointing. They’ve made some small steps forward, but there is no agreement on the immediate phasing out of fossil fuels. But then again, more people are becoming aware of climate-induced issues and their impact. Many sectors are trying to align interventions and more people rightfully see it as the main issue now.’

This was the first you attended the conference. What did you think when you got to Dubai?

‘The thing that struck me first is that Dubai is a very surreal place. It’s huge and extremely organised. You go into these long queues all the time, but they move very fast. The venue was also immense. We missed some events because we couldn’t even find the rooms. We had to search on maps and walk for an hour sometimes.’

When you were able to find them, what did you think about the events?

‘During the high-profile events, you just sit and listen to the negotiations. The side events were more interesting. They were organised by different organisations and research institutes and reflected on experiences and important issues. Food systems, for example. And peace. During those events, you could actively participate, and there were many interesting panellists.’

How did you participate?

‘I was advocating for Yemen, mostly. My feeling is that Yemen is often forgotten when we talk about climate issues. I took the opportunity to mention the urgent need for interventions in my country.’

‘My concerns grow when I hear what the political leaders are saying. Their priorities are obvious: business and political interests.’

What was the response?

‘That we lack data and need a lot more information to properly respond to the crisis. They are right, we need to start working on it. Everyone I’ve met was very open and wanted to learn more. I also loved learning from the experiences of others. I exchanged contact details with many attendees and I’m planning on continuing the discussions.’

In the messages around COP28, Cordaid wanted to call attention to the link between climate change and conflict. Many people will know about the ongoing war in Yemen. What are the impacts of climate change and how do they relate to conflict?

‘In Yemen, the war has turned into a protracted crisis. Next to that, we are also experiencing both drought and flooding, which creates new conflicts over land and resources. Due to climate-induced natural disasters, people are forced to move to different areas and this creates tensions between the displaced population and the host communities. In the flood-affected northern part of the country, we have a shelter programme in which we try to resolve these issues by making sure the host communities feel supported as well. It is a very complex issue.’

You have expressed your disappointment – together with millions of people around the globe – about the outcomes of the high-profile talks. Did you also leave Dubai with some hope?

‘What gave me hope was listening to like-minded organisations and the work they are doing. It’s very inspiring to see how people are looking for creative and innovative solutions to these major problems. They want to make a positive impact, sometimes against all odds.  

For me, hope and great worry go hand in hand. My concerns grow when I hear what the political leaders are saying. Their priorities are obvious: business and political interests. They do not prioritise the future of our planet and they are not cooperating as much as they should.’

‘I feel even more dedicated. We will keep doing it, no matter what. We won’t give up.’

Do you ever get frustrated?

‘For sure! I travelled to Dubai filled with ambition. People say “This time it’s going to be different”. And then nothing happens. Or too little, to say the least.’

Now you have returned to Yemen and you will continue working in one of the world’s largest and most complex crises. Where do you find the energy?

‘Whatever the outcomes, being in Dubai had a positive impact on me as well. It will not be business as usual. I have a much broader network now and I will keep advocating more for climate-related issues and share the voice of people who are experiencing these challenges already in their daily lives. I feel even more dedicated. My work will become more collaborative and I get lots of energy from working with other people who share my interests and ambitions. We will keep meeting at events and we will make collaborative statements. We will keep doing it, no matter what. We won’t give up.’