Delegates From the Climate School Share Their Plans and Hopes

COP28: Delegates From the Climate School Share Their Plans and Hopes

Kicking off on Nov. 30 and running through Dec. 12, the COP28 climate summit is taking place in Dubai this year. The conference will bring together all kinds of people—world leaders, citizens, academics, activists, scientists, non-profit organizations and more—to discuss and implement solutions to climate change. New this year is a Local Action Climate Summit, featuring subnational climate leaders—mayors, governors, businesses and so on—who are increasingly important in the fight against climate change.

A number of representatives from the Columbia Climate School will be in attendance at COP28 to give talks, host panel discussions, and forge connections that could lead to innovative collaborations. We spoke to a few attendees about their hopes and expectations for the conference.

Daniel Zarrilli, special advisor on climate and sustainability, Columbia University

What will you be doing, or what are you excited to do, at COP28?

I’m excited to participate in the COP28 Local Climate Action Summit on December 1 and 2.  It’s the first time that cities, long recognized as global climate leaders, have been given an official role in the COP process. COP is built around national governments, but cities are where most people live, representing the bulk of the world’s economy and with that the majority of the world’s heat-trapping carbon pollution. Cities are also a nexus of so much climate vulnerability—from storms, heat waves, and flooding—particularly among their most marginalized communities, so it’s particularly important for cities to help shape the outcome at COP28.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

I hope to connect with many of the policymakers and practitioners at the COP28 Local Climate Action Summit, and to share with them the exciting things happening here at Columbia. The Climate School has so many resources that can help them solve real problems. There is incredible opportunity for the Climate School to develop effective strategic partnerships that could support innovation and leadership in urban climate policy in ways that would have positive global impact.

What are some large-scale actions or takeaways you hope to see come out of the summit?

The world needs COP28 to do two major things: The first is to agree on the framework to phase out fossil fuels and end the world’s reliance on the coal, oil and gas that bear primary responsibility for our climate crisis. Financing the transition to clean energy is vital. If we can’t come to that agreement soon, our ability to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement will be lost. Second, nations must not just set up the structure of a loss and damage facility, but must agree to fund it so that it can begin to invest in equitable adaptation projects. But I worry that without rapid action to slash emissions, climate impacts will start to exceed our ability to adapt before parts of the globe become uninhabitable. In both cases, COP28 can now officially draw upon the leadership of cities, many of which have already put themselves on the path to decarbonization and resilience, to secure a livable future for all of us.



Andrew Kruczkiewicz, senior staff research associate, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University

What will you be doing, or what are you excited to do, at COP28?

I’ll be chairing and participating as a speaker in various sessions, as well as meeting with key partners and potential future partners to discuss opportunities to collaborate. COP is an opportunity to listen to evolving policy narratives; the priorities of governments and influential NGOs; and general perceptions of what seems to be working regarding the translation and integration of science into policy and practice. All this comes with the responsibility to reflect and think critically about who is saying what, what their motivations are and to consider whose voices may be missing from the conversation.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

It is a privilege for me, as a scientist, to work directly with humanitarian organizations. With this privilege comes a responsibility to attend sessions and discussions that may oversimplify, or even ignore, the various ways in which climate and weather data are integrated into decision making and policy. I will promote enhanced participation for scientists not only in data generation and dissemination, but also in the integration and translation elements of developing climate, disaster and humanitarian policy.

I will co-lead sessions about using both climate and socioeconomic data to address climate risk relative to extreme events and disasters, to promote the importance and responsibility of understanding both the constraints and opportunities to use such data in developing policy and standard operating procedures for disaster managers and the humanitarian sector.

As data becomes more available and accessible, there is an urgent need to promote responsibility and accountability in understanding challenges and limitations of data—particularly within fragile socioeconomic contexts and humanitarian crises—as misuse or failure to dedicate resources to assess the risk of unintended consequences can lead to significant impacts on the most vulnerable populations.

What are some large-scale actions or takeaways that you hope to see come out of the summit?

I believe a successful COP will set appropriately rigid yet sufficient flexible guardrails to make progress on the four paradigm shifts in the coming years. Expectations must be set regarding what COP can and most likely will not do. That said, accountability and governance related to pursuit of these paradigm shifts must be clearer if there is any chance for the science, policy and private sectors to evolve in a way that promotes sustainability in anticipating and taking action to reduce climate risk.

For my area of work—extreme events and climate-related disasters—action must be provided at disproportionately significant levels for the most underserved and socially vulnerable communities.


Jeff Schlegelmilch, director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia Climate School

What will you be doing or what are you excited to do at COP28?

Climate adaptation is becoming a priority that is a long time coming. While it is still important to commit to emissions reduction and overall climate change mitigation, the impacts of climate change and the need to adapt must be done concurrently. Our center, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia Climate School, is heavily engaged in climate adaptation, and will be working to further build partnerships, share ideas and develop solutions to some of the most pressing adaptation issues we are facing, and will continue to face, in the years to come.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

 COP has not traditionally had a lot of space for disaster management and adaptation discussions. Now that it is getting a larger share of global attention, I am excited to see what other work is being done and to forge new partnerships to help generate and activate the ideas that are needed to address the impacts and inequities in climate change.

What are some large-scale actions or takeaways that you hope to see come out of the summit?

Climate adaptation requires significant investment in both resources and time, and equity is an essential part of adaptation. We are several decades behind in addressing adaptation at the scale needed, and even further behind in doing so through an equity lens. As the world’s attention begins to shift in these directions, it is a tremendous opportunity to make transformational commitments that impact real change for the better.


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