Submitted by Amira Nasser Mostafa
19 Feb 2024

The Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action at COP28

Under the shining Dubai sun, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached its 28th Conference of the Parties (COPs). Held at the massive Expo City, it was easy to have mixed feelings about the event, swinging between renewed hope of reaching a turning point in efforts to save the Earth, to disappointment at witnessing the negotiations during a roundtable.

Yet COPs have always been the perfect stage to see all the experts, activists and journalists who share a professional portfolio of, or a personal interest in, the environment. It is also an excellent representation of the diversity and, to some extent, inclusivity of those facing up to climate change. While the Blue Zone was filled with suits, ties and serious faces, the Green Zone was a free space of serenity and creativity. The Green Zone was also filled with unconventional buildings, green scooters and innovative tools to showcase climate action.

From AI to urban resilience

After spending the first day (30 November) queuing for an official badge, the true marathon began on 1 December; everyone started running about, trying to reach the next event at (almost) the proper starting time. The Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action also had a busy schedule, which began in earnest on 2 December with participation in a panel discussion on ‘Empowering resilience: AI-driven weather forecasting for developing nations’. Organized and moderated by the UNDRR Regional Office for Arab States, the panellists discussed how effective cooperation can be achieved between national meteorological centres, the academic sector and the private sector, in order to enhance national capacities for disaster preparedness and response.

The next day, I represented the Future Leaders Network as a keynote speaker at a side event organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), ‘Early Warnings for All (EW4All): building urban resilience’. The focus here was common challenges and opportunities faced in accelerating climate adaptation efforts within the framework of the EW4All initiative. Participants shared their experiences and offered innovative solutions for urban environments, which are home to many of the world’s most vulnerable communities. This session was unique in terms of showcasing real, practical case studies from complex urban areas, with an in-depth discussion on the challenges in designing feasible anticipatory action frameworks in such settings.

Delivering early warnings in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence

One of the headline topics, intensely discussed during COP28, was EW4All in contexts affected by fragility, conflict and violence. A panel discussion, ‘Transforming humanitarian assistance in the face of climate crises’ during, moderated by the United States Agency for International Development, aimed to shed light on how humanitarian systems can be transformed to better adapt to climate crises and to more effectively and comprehensively support communities in these contexts. The Future Leaders Network provided a youth perspective, explaining how young professionals can help to transform humanitarian assistance in terms of climate adaptation. For example, young professionals can contribute the innovative, tech-savvy approaches they have mastered to promote such a transformation. They can also help to establish partnerships, inter-generational collaborations and community engagement, bringing with them a broad, inclusive mindset. However, for young professionals to fulfil this role, they will need access to technology, funding and resources, as well as opportunities to observe political decision-making processes. Other requirements include access to mental health support if working in the field of climate-related disasters, and recognition of the successful initiatives they complete.

Another panel focusing on fragility, conflict and violence contexts was organized by the WMO and moderated by the Future Leaders Network. The theme this time, ‘Making EW4All a reality in fragile, conflict and violence contexts’, aimed to find ways to realize the EW4All objectives in such contexts, with inputs from countries, international parties, and funding agents. Representatives from Sudan and South Sudan shared experiences from their countries, where appropriate anticipatory actions, cross-border collaboration and access to immediate funding were the most critical elements.

Anticipatory action takes centre stage during policy and technical discussions

The growing interest in anticipatory action was witnessed on many occasions during COP28, including at a side event co-organized by the Anticipation Hub and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and co-facilitated by the Future Leaders Network. This event, ‘How can we reimagine and enhance partnerships? Lessons from creative policy processes via serious fun’, used a variety of creative methods. One activity simulated the reality of increasingly multi-risk hazards and storytelling about ‘lived experience’, provided by the Malagasy Red Cross Society. There was also time to explore ‘extraordinary’ partnerships – working with those outside of your own sector – to perceive different roles in disaster risk reduction through a broader, more comprehensive context.

Towards the end of COP28 (10 December), the Future Leaders Network contributed to a panel discussion on ‘Leveraging collective expertise to translate early warning into humanitarian action: the WMO Coordination Mechanism’. This session reviewed the added value of this partnership framework in transforming early warnings into early actions, through providing humanitarian agencies with a platform that contains weather and climate information and expert advice from the WMO community. This can effectively promote anticipatory action and reduce disaster risks, while also supporting the EW4All initiative.

Final thoughts on COP28

COP28 comprised many long, busy days, but it was still an unforgettable experience – and an opportunity that every young professional should take if they get the chance. In a relatively short period, it can build new skills, such as networking, professionalism, critical thinking and public speaking. And there was one remarkable outcome from COP28: reaching an agreement on the loss and damage fund at the opening plenary, signalling the 'beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era’.

This article was written by Amira Nasser Mostafa, deputy director of the Technical Office at the Egyptian Meteorological Authority and a member of the Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action.

Photos by the Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action.