We owe it to children to be hopeful ahead of COP28

By Joshua Villalobos, UNICEF Philippines' Youth Delegate to COP28

29 November 2023
group photo of adults
UNICEF Philippines/2023

COP28 is the 28th meeting of parties (governments) who signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. Every year, parties meet for two weeks to discuss and decide on several key issues on climate mitigation and climate adaptation based on the best available science.  

This year’s conference has been plagued by pessimism. Critics argue that COP28 will not deliver the much-needed action to address critical issues in the global effort to address climate change, mainly because of the host is a fossil-fuel producing and exporting country. Others would say that the assignment of a fossil fuel executive as climate negotiations President is like putting the tobacco industry in-charge of ending smoking. 

Tracking progress 

There are several important things that governments will talk about this year. On top of the list is the first ever Global Stocktake (GST), which is an assessment of progress since governments signed the Paris Agreement and agreed to reduce greenhouse gases emissions to mitigate climate change.   

Another topic that will be of utmost importance to children is the discussion on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). This “negotiation workstream” is concerned about setting, as the name suggests, a global goal specific for adaptation. 

Unlike mitigation, where there is already a global goal, there is no global goal yet for adaptation and since children often bear the brunt of the climate crisis—from displacement, disruption of education, illness and malnutrition, and more— it is important to put significant consideration to children in setting up this goal and ensure that the GGA is sensitive and responsive to their needs. 

Significant attention is also given to other negotiation workstreams such as on climate finance, loss and damage, fossil fuel phaseout, just transition, and actions for climate empowerment, all will have a significant impact on the protection and fulfillment of the rights of children. 

Learning from young people 

It is widely recognized that the climate crisis is a byproduct of the fossil-fuel industry.  

Despite the impacts felt by children and other vulnerable countries and communities, the fossil fuel industry makes record number profits while also reaching record number of emissions, continuing to pump planet-warming gases worsening the climate crisis at the expense of our future, of all children around the world, and the generation yet unborn. 

As the United Arab Emirates leads the negotiation, it is important that it shows the climate leadership needed, by leading the discussion of a just and equitable phaseout of fossil-fuels. The COP Presidency can take inspiration from children and young people who have been showing real climate leadership in the past few years and putting in our fair share of work and sacrifices to make a better world. 

The imperative of radical hope and action 

While a lot of people might not have positive hopes for the outcome of the biggest climate conference ever, I personally want to take chances and choose the more strategic option. I join the bigger group of people who insists on radical hope. Who, despite of the realities and material conditions, would still hope, advocate, and fight for a good outcome.  Who, despite the slow progress of the negotiations, still believes that when all of humanity come together, we can address the biggest crisis of our existence. 

For me it is not only smart and strategic, but it is the only option. The alternative to hope is despair, inaction, and death, and I refuse to choose that option.  

But recognizing also that hope doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Hope is created when there is positive action. In the context of climate change, there is no hope without climate action and there can be no climate action without hope. 

We owe our children the right to live in a livable planet. The first step is radical hope and radical climate action to ensure that this right is afforded #ForEveryChild. 

Joshua Villalobos is a young queer environment and climate justice activist and organizer from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. He is the Lead Convenor of the Negrosanon Initiative for Climate and the Environment, and a columnist for Sunstar Bacolod News. 

Media contacts

Marge Francia
Advocacy & Communication Specialist
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 858 9447


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.

Follow UNICEF Philippines on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter and YouTube.