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Navigating COP28: A Journey into Climate Action, Biodiversity Conservation and Youth Engagement

Published January 17, 2024 by Nouhou Zoungrana
nouhou zoungrana_ expo city COP 28 venue

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the COP (Conference of the Parties), convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 until December 12, 2023. COP28 emerged as a crucial platform, uniting global leaders, experts, and stakeholders to address the pressing issue of climate change.

To put it simply, the COP is where the world comes together to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The conference drew over 70,000 delegates from diverse backgrounds.

Engaging with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

My engagement with the UNFPA commenced prior to COP28, collaborating on a country-specific factsheet addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) within the context of climate change. My work focused on Burkina Faso; this initiative aimed to provide crucial insights for stakeholders and policymakers working in the intersection of climate change and SRHR. During COP28, actively participating in the main UNFPA event: “The Road to ICPD@30,” offered a broader perspective on enhancing rights-based Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with gender-responsive approaches. 

nouhou zoungrana_event group photo UNFPA side
Dynamic activities at COP28

My involvement in diverse activities during COP28 was both enriching and impactful:

  • Organising a side event focusing on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in Burkina Faso with Burkina Youth Parliament for Water highlighted the criticality of integrating WASH into adaptation policies, especially in the context of societal vulnerabilities.
nouhou zoungrana_panel about water crisis in sahel region
  • Moderating an event spotlighting the contributions of Sahelian youth in managing water resources amidst climate change and regional insecurities underscored the need to empower and recognise the role of young leaders.
  • Presenting my AFAS master program research findings with Burkina Youth Biodiversity Network on traditional agricultural land restoration techniques in Burkina Faso showcased the viability of indigenous knowledge in combating climate challenges. 
nouhou zoungrana_presenting research result
  • As a speaker at COP15 Biodiversity to COP28 Climate Change, ‘’Nature to the Rescue for Climate and Biodiversity’’, organised by Nature Québec, I championed the imperative role of nature to the rescue for climate and biodiversity on December 10th at the UICN Pavilion. I shared pivotal insights on leveraging nature-based solutions (NbS) from successful models in land restoration in Burkina Faso, emphasising their potential in addressing the intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and fostering a robust dialogue towards sustainable environmental solutions for the future.
National Delegation Engagement

During COP28, it was my first time to engage with the national delegation as a young person in terms of negotiations. Engaging with Burkina Faso’s national delegation during COP28 involved following the negotiations on adaptation, with a particular focus on integrating youth and gender perspectives into NDCs and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

nouhou zoungrana_ In negotiation room
Main outcomes in terms of NbS and biodiversity conservation

The main outcomes from COP28, as highlighted in the provided passage, revolve around the adoption and emphasis on NbS as a critical strategy to address the human-induced climate crisis. Here are the key outcomes:


  • Mitigation and Adaptation:

The COP28 outcomes, as outlined in Decision CMA.5, para 55, underscore the importance of nature-based solutions not only for climate change mitigation but also for addressing broader issues such as human health, ecosystem protection, and economic and social resilience. The concept of “One Health” is highlighted, emphasising the interconnectedness of environmental, human, animal, and ecosystem health. This holistic approach recognises that addressing climate change is inseparable from broader health and well-being considerations.

  • Biodiversity Conservation and Youth Engagement:

Decision CMA.5, para 33, emphasises the integration of biodiversity conservation with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed upon at COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2022. This integration reflects the acknowledgment that addressing climate change and biodiversity loss should be pursued in tandem. The engagement with biodiversity conservation networks, such as the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, further supports this interconnected approach.

  • Nature-Based Solutions (NbS):

Decision CMA.5, para 63(d), encourages the use of NbS to protect inland water, mountains, and coastal ecosystems. It breaks down terrestrial and marine ecosystems, highlighting the comprehensive nature of NbS applications. The focus on inland water, including wetlands, and the effectiveness of peatlands in addressing climate impacts reinforces the specific roles that different ecosystems play in climate resilience and mitigation.

  • Loss and Damage Fund:

While not explicitly mentioned in the provided text, the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund on the first day of COP is a significant outcome. This fund aims to address the financial needs of the most vulnerable countries coping with the damages of climate change beyond adaptation. The text notes that this success should not overshadow the prolonged struggle of vulnerable countries to access financing for addressing climate-related damages, underscoring the importance of sustained and equitable financial support.

Personal Reflections on COP28

As a first-time participant in a UNFCCC COP, the experience was transformative. The networking opportunities, diverse engagements, and contributions to the SRHR and Climate Factsheet deepened my understanding of these interconnected global challenges. The exposure gained at COP28 will undoubtedly shape my future initiatives and efforts in climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation.

The UNFCCC COP28 in Dubai was a testament to global unity and collective action to address the climate crisis and its related drivers. The collaborative efforts, diverse discussions, and spirit of inclusiveness on display at the conference reflect the urgency and commitment needed to combat climate change.

As an environmentalist and climate advocate, my trip to COP28 reaffirmed the importance of individual contributions in steering collective efforts towards a sustainable and resilient future.

Information about the author:

Nouhou Zoungrana is an AFAS fellow from the 1st MSc cohort based at the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire.