8 February 2024

‘Those who emit the most, commit the most’: My experience of Model COP

Keynotes, discussions and bold new resolutions for climate change from Kew Youth Programme's Model COP.

By Vhaishali Kajendran

Mountain landscape in Patagonia

On 2 December 2023, to align with COP28 taking place in Dubai, Kew Youth Programme held its own Model COP at Kew Gardens.

COP28 is the 28th meeting of UN countries to discuss the current state of climate change, and what can be done to help reduce global temperature increase.

Over 100 young participants aged 14 to 17 from across London – including members of the Croydon Youth Assembly and graduates from our previous programmes – participated in a mock meeting, representing multiple countries right here at Kew. 

A group of young people around a table talking and voting
Kew Model COP © RBG Kew

Keynotes and discussions

The day began with a keynote speech by Adrian Gahan from Campaign for Nature.

Adrian spoke about his work on the 30x30 target at COP15 and the impact of campaigning for change. This is an integral positive message amidst what many young people now understandably see to be, in Greta Thunberg’s words, ‘a global north green-washing festival'.

There were 197 member countries around the globe who took part in COP28, each of them working in allied ‘Blocs’. For our Model COP, I took lead as a like-minded megadiverse countries bloc leader for China, Brazil and Indonesia, facilitating debate amongst the delegates from each party. 

In the afternoon, discussions began in earnest, in interactive sessions that explored how change happens at an inter-governmental level which gave us insight into policies discussed on the world stage.

A group of young people talking
Kew Model COP © RBG Kew

Resolutions for the future

At times, when countries had different opinions on key resolutions and policy recommendations, coming to an agreement proved to be difficult. 

Since China and the United States are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, I had a difficult role as bloc facilitator: lots of questions were directed at me to be answered on the floor. 

There were disagreements between developing and richer nations, as poorer countries argued that wealthier states should pay more in compensation for damage caused by historical greenhouse-gas emissions.

New resolutions were proposed, including lowering the voting age around climate policy in order to better involve youth voice, as well as a proposal to develop policy around the new loss and damage fund to ensure that those who emit the most, commit the most. 

A group of young people in seats voting with their raised hands
Kew Model COP © RBG Kew

Looking forward

It was interesting to learn more about the different concerns and interests of the 197 signatories to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which makes reaching consensus challenging. 

It is disheartening to know that the greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, and global temperatures keep rising. Our planet is fast approaching critical thresholds that will make climate chaos irreversible. This is our universe, one globe, and as a young activist I feel it is my responsibility to work to protect it. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to call my friends and family to stand together and do their bit to help cut emissions by 42% by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

I am pledging to keep working towards this too.

A group shot of young people in a lecture theatre
Kew Model COP © RBG Kew

We hope that world leaders can follow in our footsteps, and make decisions that consider our planet’s precious biodiversity, and the lives of those most affected by the climate crisis.

Discover how you can help by lowering your own carbon footprint.

Read & watch