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MDX students experience first hand the workings of the UN System at COP28

12/12/2023
Climate Law & Governance conference hosted by MDX Dubai “wonderfully insightful and a great opportunity for learning... direct questions, everyone engaging in the session and sharing viewpoints. MDX has done a great job in that"

Tayba Jamil outside the Middlesex University Dubai Climate Law event

Tayba Jamil outside the Middlesex University Dubai Climate Law event

Students at MDX passionately committed to sustainability have had ringside seats at COP in Dubai.

Master’s student in Global Governance and Sustainable Developments Tayba Jamil clinched one of a handful of tickets available to MDX Dubai students to the Blue Zone, where the official negotiations take place. Tayba attended the third day of the gathering on 2nd December, after the loss and damage fund to assist small developing countries suffering the brunt of climate impacts was formally established at the start of COP.

While initial pledges to the fund of around $700 million from rich countries are “very miniature, not nearly enough” to address the consequences of climate change, Tayba welcomes the willingness to pay as “a very good step,” and concrete progress from COP27 which for her signalled the world not quite being ready to deliver finance in this particular way.

“The entire MDX Dubai community got involved.” Interim Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Julia Clarke

A volunteer with UN global youth activist network Youngo, and having previously worked as a political and public diplomacy officer for the Danish embassy in her native Pakistan, she also made a beeline for country experts in Expo City Dubai site pavilion, to hear about the multi-faceted challenges many countries face, for instance around food, water and security. Talking to the Palestine representatives emphasised for her that advocates for climate action “should focus on human rights or it's incomplete. There’s no use protecting the environment without protecting individuals”.

She engaged with youth delegates but made a point of speaking to people of all age groups for a rounded perspective. She notes the huge gulf in viewpoint between those who think there is time to address climate change and those who see the situation as desperately urgent.

Tayba Jamil speaking at an event at COP28

Tayba Jamil speaking at an event at COP28

Tayba Jamil clinched one of a handful of tickets available to MDX Dubai students to the Blue Zone

Tayba Jamil clinched one of a handful of tickets available to MDX Dubai students to the Blue Zone

Tayba thinks the extreme weather over the past year, occurring with such regularity and in so many regions of the world – “the US, Canada, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia - we are seeing and getting examples every day” should be a wake-up call to everyone of the “evident results of climate change”.

Having personally been researching New Zealand’s policy provision to take climate refugees from vulnerable island nations, she was disappointed by the lack of mention of climate mobility and migration in any of the agreements. And she was dismayed by the absence of a major commitment from oil producers to scale down operations. “It contradicts the idea of COP” she says. “It should be coming from them - how they're changing, diversifying, what are they doing to reduce emissions”.

Tayba’s coursemate Aditi Jha, who has 15 years’ experience in the charity sector, as a fundraiser for Oxfam and Save the Children and now working in comms and marketing for the British Council, was delighted to hear her idol Hillary Clinton moderate a session on the first day she attended the Blue Zone.

The plenary, featuring a highly personal opening speech by the US State Department’s Christina Chan, reflected on the unequal impacts of climate change on women and persistent gender imbalance among political and business leaders, offering “a wealth of knowledge and diverse viewpoints on the crucial role of women in building a climate-resilient world,” Aditi says.

Aditi Jha also gained access to the Blue Zone

Aditi Jha also gained access to the Blue Zone

Aditi volunteers her comms and grant writing skills to social enterprise MITHILAsmita, founded by her sister, which empowers local women artisans in Bihar, India offering a platform for their skills and voices and promoting their economic independence.

She came away personally optimistic from the first COP session she attended, following the progress on loss and damage, and the number of conversations taking place about education and empowerment, inclusivity and capacity building.

But she describes Sunday’s dedicated Agriculture, Food and Water Day as “high on emotions”.

“I saw people breaking down with little attention being paid to the theme,” she says. “It ended up on a sad note with the theme not being able to secure a place in the Global Stocktake, and with phase out of fossil fuels not being promised”.

Tayba and Aditi were also among 20-25 MDX students and staff volunteering as rapporteurs and moderators at the major Climate Law & Governance conference on 5th December – Engaging in Global Stocktake through Legal Lenses.

Hosted at MDX Dubai’s Knowledge Park campus in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, University of Dubai, the Climate Law and Governance Initiative (CLGI) and other partners, the conference brought together finance and legal professionals, academics, policy makers, regulators and students for a series of round-tables and plenaries.

Aditi was impressed by the calibre of the event speakers and Tayba says the conference was “wonderfully insightful in terms of understanding how law is initiated and a great opportunity for learning”. Tayba remarks how the conference had “no sugar-coating, no greenwashing” offering a chance for “direct questions, everyone engaging in the session and sharing viewpoints. MDX has done a great job in that”.

“The entire MDX Dubai community got involved,” says Interim Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Julia Clarke, attending during her first visit to Dubai campus. “Our academics were presenting; students were acting as rapporteurs, film makers and guides; even the lanyards had been designed by our fashion students from recycled tablecloths.

“At the heart of the event was the criticality of education, and of legal education in particular, in enabling us to meet the Paris target of keeping the world below 1.5°C warming,” Professor Clarke adds.

“Opening, Prof Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Executive Secretary of CLGI, challenged us to do everything we can as organisations and as individuals. Now that law on climate change is reaching the courts, we need our students to understand how good law is drafted and interpreted. The development of policy that creates the enabling environment required for a just transition needs us to train a cadre of future environmental litigation specialists.

“UN Special Rapporteur Professor David Boyd, reminded us that climate crisis is a humans right crisis. Human rights focus our attention and clarifies state responsibilities for climate change, creating an obligation for states to act.

“Professor Payam Akhavan warned us that small island states disappearing under the waves today are the canary in the coal mine for what will happen elsewhere tomorrow. The principles we need to tackle the crisis (the Polluter pays principle, the duty of reparation) already exist in international law, but we must speak truth to power through legal processes”.

Aditi won a platinum award in the International Climate Law & Governance Student Essay Competition, presented at the end of the conference, for her essay evaluating India's food security programme. In recognition, she receives a certificate and medal, and her essay will be published on the CLGI website.

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