Jessie Buendia's post

5 key takeaways from COP28 as a lifelong advocate for climate equity
Attending COP28 as an official observer was a lifelong dream of mine. For the last two decades, I have worked on climate and environmental protection at the local and state levels as an advocate and an administrator, helping start community benefit and environmental justice programs at the local level and designing climate equity programs and initiatives at the state level. Now as the Vice President of Sustainability at Dream. Org, I brought a unique perspective to COP28 as my team works to maximize climate investments for disadvantaged communities here in the United States while equitably reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. 1) Building an equitable green economy requires a global perspective.

The climate crisis isn’t partial to location. Its impacts are widespread and so are its solutions. At COP28, Dream. Org participated in conversations with business executives, government officials, and movement leaders. While everyone brought different perspectives and motivations for attending, the single unifying theme across all of the conversations I had was that we cannot solve the problem in isolation. It’s actually quite the opposite. Climate change requires that we leverage all of our collective efforts at a speed and pace never seen before in history. I had an opportunity to speak on a panel hosted by the Atlantic Council with leaders from the UK, South Africa, and the US about just transition. We all were in agreement that the solutions need to be tailored to the community’s unique needs, that multi-sectoral partnerships are imperative, and that people across the globe have a lot to learn from one another. On a different day, we hosted a world music event with the HBCU Green Fund, Harambee House, and A Sustainable Future for Africa & the Diaspora focused on building cross-continental relationships through culture, food, and music that can nourish our souls. People-centered relationship building is at the heart of this work. 2) A solutions-oriented, common ground mindset is the only way we’ll make progress fast enough to address the global problem.

We attended a Bloomberg Green Conference which convened leaders in business, finance, policy, academia, and NGOs for candid conversations focused on creating solutions to support the goals set forth at COP28. It focused on pragmatic strategies for integrated climate action and methods to accelerate climate plans and measure progress. Whether it was covering the green economy, cleaner tech, greener living, or social change, the one unifying theme is that now is the time to lean into developing cross-sector partnerships and building bridges with unlikely allies. It also means reporting on those stories and solutions, not just relying on news stories focused on conflict and distrust. At Dream. Org, we uplift stories of Black and Brown entrepreneurs bringing solutions to the communities most impacted by poverty and pollution and help equip rising Black and Brown professional talent to break into the green economy. We also work with local governments and frontline communities in purple, red, and blue states who are forming new partnerships to draw down federal funding for climate infrastructure while uplifting community voices to make the best decisions for themselves and their communities. 3) Acknowledging failures without promoting blame culture.

In my week at COP28, I got to go into the Blue Zone and see the U.S. Envoy John Kerry speak about new technology, the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer Andrew Mayock discuss the investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, and the U.S. Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi announce globally the U.S.’s historic methane ruling. I realized that we had so much to be proud of this year on a global scale. You root for your team in the way you do during the World Cup, wanting them to be the best and show the global community who the U.S. can be. But sometimes we are not the best, or we send mixed messages when people confront us. Instead of showing vulnerability or accepting failures, we often choose to find a scapegoat to blame instead of reaching across the aisle to bridge divides. While taking sides might be a good way to dodge hard questions, shifting blame to conservative America actually makes us look weaker on the global stage while alienating the 50% of Americans who still need to be convinced that climate policies and initiatives can benefit them. We can and deserve better. 4) Movement building continues to play an important role in making change happen.

From my conversations during breakfast with veterans of the early COPs and talking to organizations like Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network, people discussed how distinctly corporate the event felt. So much so that COP28 was the largest climate conference in history with 80,000 attendees and 4,000 journalists, along with thousands of world leaders, billionaires, and celebrities. There are trade show elements that feel like you are at a car show, which at times could distract from focusing on movement building. But, in the short time that I was there, I saw how people took advantage of moments like the President’s announcement on the scientific merits of phasing down fossil fuels to demand more from their negotiators. They used inside/outside strategies and succeeded in getting the head of an oil company from an oil-rich country to announce that the international community would be transitioning away from fossil fuels. Movement building and advocacy from all sectors and parts of the world is either working, or we are all trapped in an Orwellian novel. I’m an optimist so I choose to believe it’s working. 5) Everybody has a role to play in building an inclusive, green economy. 

It was interesting to be at a global conference where people were very aware of the Inflation Reduction Act, while only 3 out of 10 Americans know about it back home. Of course, this is self-selection since we were at a climate conference, but it led me to think that all of these attendees of the conference were there because they were passionate about the issue and invested – whether principally because of the impact of climate change in their communities or monetarily because they wanted to make money (or not lose money) in this new green transition. It made me think, how do we get people back home invested too? Here are a few immediate actions that you can take:  > If you are an entrepreneur or job seeker, learn about our Dream Entrepreneurs Network and sign up for scholarship opportunities. > If you are a community-based organization interested in drawing down federal climate funds, join our Green Spotlight newsletter to get the latest updates on funding opportunities. > Learn how to take advantage of federal tax incentives for your household before the end of the year here! > With $369 billion on the line, we need to ensure climate aid gets to communities that need it most. Add your voice here & get involved with our federal advocacy work. 


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  • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

    17 w

    The author's takeaways from COP28 highlight the importance of a global perspective in building an equitable green economy. The need for cross-sector partnerships, a solutions-oriented mindset, and acknowledging failures without a blame culture are emphasized. The role of movement building and advocacy is recognized, showcasing the power of collective efforts in making change happen. The article also underscores the significance of inclusivity in the transition to a green economy and calls for increased awareness and engagement at the local level. Overall, the observations emphasize the interconnectedness of climate action on a global scale and the diverse roles individuals and organizations can play in driving positive change.

    3
    • winnie nguru

      17 w

      This is a great read

      4
    • Gorffly mokua

      18 w

      Short, insightful and precise! 💚Thank you for sharing!

      3
      • Jessie Buendia

        17 w

        @gorffly_mokua It was an honor to be able to observe and be a part of such critical conversations!

        1
      • Munene Mugambi

        18 w

        I'm sure you found the experience to be eye opening to lots of issues facing our planet and people vulnerable due to climate change effects

        8
        • Patrick Kiash

          18 w

          Great article and am glad to read your 5 take ways points and number 5 is very important and key to many to take the actions toward green transition.

          8
          • Jessie Buendia

            17 w

            @patrick_kiash Thank you! Yes - absolutely. We need everyone on board to be successful!

            1
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