They came from seven countries and four continents.
A father from the southernmost state in India in support of his 11-year-old daughter, who was one of the youngest delegates. A climate activist from Easter Island who draws from the ancient knowledge of her ancestors in promoting green energy. The founder of an Indigenous ministry from Fiji. And a leader of historically Black colleges and universities from the US.
Those were just some of the 16 delegates that Omega directly supported—by way of its United Nations Climate accreditation and through its small grants program—at the most recent United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai. Some traveled to give voice to the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples, some advanced work on nature-based solutions, and others shared their work on climate solutions with peers. Each one made a significant contribution.
Many of these delegates said COP28 provided an excellent opportunity to share their needs on a global platform–even if the conference's negotiations fell short of securing enough finances to adequately address the global climate emergency.
"We are extremely proud of—and grateful for—the inspiring work of our partners at COP28," says Omega Center for Sustainable Living founder Robert "Skip" Backus. "At Omega, we’ve approached our work with the UN as a vehicle for supporting the work and voices of individuals and groups that need to be heard."
Erity Teave, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Erity Teave,president of Mana Rapa Nui Foundation, discusses the adverse impacts of climate change on Easter Island.
Erity Teave serves as vice president of the Rapa Nui Parliament and president of Mana Rapa Nui Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on sustainable development for the island. In her capacity as one of the Pacific region’s Indigenous knowledge holders, Erity attended COP28 to advocate for human rights, land rights, and vulnerable communities. Her culture and traditions are grounded in Polynesian origin, practiced for centuries.
“My culture," she says, "is in danger of extinction by assimilation, currently under colonization by the State of Chile. Yet the greatness of my heritage remains, as one of the amazing legacies in the South Pacific and one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world.”
As part of her work, Erity made presentations at COP28's Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, which works to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices, and efforts of local communities and Indigenous Peoples. Respecting, promoting, and considering local and Indigenous rights is a key element of the Paris Agreement.
“The conference was a great platform to address the realities and growing impact and harm of warming across the Pacific and the planet,” she says. "I insist that there is actually a way out, meaning a way to revert and prevent worsening harm."
Erity's goals for the next five years are to promote green energy, stay away from fossil fuel energy, and eradicate landfill and plastic from the Pacific Region.
"As we create a sustainable and replicable economy model," she says, "we replace fossil fuel generation for renewable energy innovation, we put forward nature, ocean, and people, we put forward healing processes. As my ancestors would have done.”
Safaira Vere Tagivuni, Fiji
Fiji Delegate Safaira Vere Tagivuni (third from right), is the executive director of Grace Trifam Ministry in the capital city on the main Island of Viti Levu.
Safaira Vere Tagivuni spent two weeks at COP28 as part of Grace Trifam Ministry, an Indigenous Peoples organization and environmental conservation nonprofit that she founded, to champion emissions reductions. Safaira began the ministry working on programs such as building nurse dispatches, kindergarten programs, and bathrooms in communities, and now does capacity building.
She presented about water issues on 14 of Fiji’s small islands and advocated for the needs of the smaller islands in the gender empowerment, climate justice, and just transition groups.
“The people living on our islands had no idea that sea-level rise, rivers drying up, and the damaged fruit trees were caused in part by global warming,” Safaira says.
“I am thankful to be at COP to be the voice of my people back home. My group of islands is not included in the small island states but they are very much affected, just like Western islands like the Marshall Islands. What about us who are surrounded by oceans? The only funds are going to big countries.”
Praveen Kumar, India
Prasiddhi Singh is Praveen Kumar's daughter and founder of Prasiddhi Forest Foundation in India.
Prasiddhi Singh might be one of the youngest conference delegates at age 11, and also one of the most impactful, speaking at numerous panels and events. She is the founder of Prasiddhi Forest Foundation in Tamil Nadu, India. The foundation promotes nature-based solutions—such as planting 130,000 trees, aiding farmers with agroecology, and forestation of an Indigenous mangrove plantation. Prasiddhi also started The Green Pillar, a nonprofit with a focus on community projects and climate education for youth and children.
When her father, Praveen Kumar was unable to get a badge for the conference, Omega stepped in to provide admission. Prasiddhi says, with nearly 75,000 people navigating the conference, it was invaluable to have her father to accompany her. She spoke at the Sustainable Development Goals Pavilion about the positivity of youth achieving climate goals. In addition to creating a song about climate change among her peers in the Youth Constituency, she shared nature-based solutions at Climate Live, a hub of fun activities and music at COP.
"I say we need a sense of reality, hope, and responsibility," Prasiddhi says. “Like a small seed growing into a mighty tree, our actions, no matter how small, can create a forest of positive change for our planet. Let’s be the guardians of nature, nurturing it with love and respect, for in its flourishing we find our own.”
Hussein Kassim, Ghana
Ghanian delegate Hussein Kassim (far right), pictured with other African and US delegates at the conference, is the executive director of the Center for Climate and Sustainability Empowerment in Accra, Ghana.
One of the pillars of the Paris Agreement is that all members of society must be empowered to engage in climate action through education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation. Dubbed Action for Climate Empowerment, or ACE, this UN effort is based on the idea that everyone, including and perhaps especially the young, must understand and participate in the transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient world.
Hussein Kassim is a climate change activist and asocial entrepreneur with the mission of educating and empowering young people and women to develop solutions to climate change challenges in Ghana. He served as Ghana’s lead negotiator for the ACE negotiations in relation to public participation and climate education.
“I believe education is essential in ensuring people are empowered to participate in the climate change discourse, create awareness, and be creative in developing innovative solutions geared towards mitigation and adaptation," he says.
In his negotiation talk, Hussein explained that without a paragraph about financing in the agreements, no plans can be implemented effectively. As an example, he asserted that without the financing that Omega provided to him for travel, he would not have been able to attend COP28 and contribute.
“It was such an amazing feeling and experience, especially having followed this process right from the beginning," Hussein says. "Even though it was exhausting, it offered me the opportunity to acquire more knowledge and skills in negotiation.”
Mona Abulgasim Seifeldin Samine, Sudan
Mona Abulgasim Seifeldin Samine, an environmental consultant to the Sudanese government, says she is keen to attend COP negotiations each year to stay updated about the process and the agenda that is discussed. Even more, it’s a chance to make new connections and improve skills in matters related to the national Action for Climate Empowerment work for Sudan.
In the days leading up to the conference, Mona was selected as a member of the Forces of Freedom and Change delegation representing civil society to work on ending the war in Sudan and restoring democracy. At COP28, she looked to meet and collaborate with others working on peace and governance in climate change. In 2024, she will continue to work on climate reform within the Sudanese government and will organize a climate change education series through social media videos, livestreams, and more.
HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Green Fund
Felicia M. Davis is connecting Africans across the globe, from Kenya to Tanzania, Uganda to Senegal, through her nonprofit, the Atlanta-based HBCU Green Fund. She has grown the network of African partners to 20 countries and says that COP28 was by far her most productive COP experience in two decades.
"Our members were everywhere and all of the side events were standing room only," she says. "This is a tribute to the work that young people put in and, thanks to Omega, we were able to help coordinate and provide airfare and lodging for representatives from more than a dozen countries."
Omega credentialed seasoned members from the US and each one made a significant contribution. Pamela Fann organized meetings with Department of Energy officials and secured meeting space in the Future Mobility Hub, a space where individuals can gather to gain knowledge, engage in meaningful discussions, and collaborate on various aspects of mobility, transportation, sustainability, and innovation.
Edrea Davis got the media out and Hussein Kassim scheduled a press conference. Yvonne Shade Jones was attending her first climate conference and represented community-based projects in the US. Illai Kenney coordinated a day-long planning meeting and presented several times throughout our stay.
"We were proud to have Omega badges and deeply appreciate all of the support," she says. "The contribution extended far beyond the US delegates to clear across the continent of Africa!"