Cynthia Tan '26 at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (COP28).

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Brooks undergraduate journeyed to COP28 to tackle climate change

For public policy undergraduate, Cynthia Tan ’26, the chance to attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, more commonly known as COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was an opportunity of a lifetime.

The annual United Nations conference, held in the fall of 2023, brought together delegates from nearly 200 countries and included technology innovators, negotiators, climate activists, and many heads of state. Over the course of two weeks, they reported on progress, shared technology and discoveries, negotiated policy, and set goals – all in an effort to accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels.

“COP28 highlighted the importance of collaboration and diplomacy in addressing complex, transnational issues,” Tan said. “Witnessing firsthand the intricacies of international negotiations and the challenges of achieving consensus reinforced the significance of building coalitions and fostering cooperation across borders.”

Tan’s attendance at the conference was assisted by a Brooks School Student Opportunity Grant, a program designed to give Brooks School students access to experiences in the field of public policy and affairs. These grants are made possible by donors who support this initiative directly and who give to the Brooks School annual fund. As part of the program, Tan received UN accreditation for the conference, with a Blue Zone badge which provided her access to formal negotiations, a privilege typically reserved for party delegations, heads of state, specially-designated observers, and accredited press members.

Before the conference officially began, Tan was invited to attend pre-sessionals, “Counting on a Sustainable Future: Global Conference on Gender and Environment Data”, a UN Women event where she was named an official rapporteur, an independent expert called upon by the United Nations to share expertise.

“During these preliminary sessions, we diligently advocated for the integration of gender perspectives into the negotiations, recognizing the disproportionate impact of climate change on women,” Tan said.

She also had opportunities to converse with the World Bank Chief Financial Officer in a small group session, interact with startup founders from diverse geographical backgrounds striving to combat climate change through technological innovation, and collaborate with the president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Every day, my calendar was packed with events and meetings with experts from across the world,” she said. “I don’t think a single person I met wasn’t an important figure.”

For Tan, participating in the conference underscored the importance of evidence-based decision-making in formulating effective policies and the need for innovative approaches and bold initiatives to address pressing global issues.

“My participation in COP28 not only deepened my understanding of the complexities surrounding international negotiations but also broadened my perspective on the diverse array of stakeholders committed to addressing this pressing global challenge,” she said.

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