Interview with Harriet Klepper, EU COP28 Delegate

Interview with Harriet Klepper, EU COP28 Delegate

Interview by Augusto Gonzalez

Harriet is a youth climate activist from Germany, currently pursuing a dual master’s at Sciences Po Paris and Bocconi University and working as a teaching assistant for the Sciences Po Law Clinic on Corporate Social Responsibility and Innovation. She has been involved with different education, youth, and climate organizations, participating most recently at COP28 in Dubai as a delegate for Young European Leadership. She is also serving on the ProVeg Youth Board, advocating for a sustainable plant-based food-system transformation.

To start, I wanted to ask what motivated you to participate in the COP conference, and what were your expectations before attending?

COP conferences have been at the forefront of international climate action. We have the scientific proof to show that we need to be changing how our world is being run – COP is the occasion to exert pressure on representatives to take meaningful action and stop global warming. I was hoping to specifically make youth voices heard, as we will be the generation who will have to deal with the worsening consequences of climate inaction. Given the fact that the world has not been on track at all to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, my hopes for COP28 were very high, even though it was clear that one conference would not be enough to resolve all the problems related to climate change.

That is great to hear! With that in mind, can you share some key takeaways or highlights from the conference that left a lasting impression on you?

There are many – one highlight has definitely been to follow the negotiations and informal talks around the first-ever Global Stocktake. It was one of the most talked about outcomes of the 2023 edition of COP: it is supposed to evaluate the progress towards the 2015 Paris Agreement goals and will therefore have an important role to play in the upcoming round of country climate action plans. Being there with so many other enthusiastic youth climate activists fighting until the last minute for the inclusion of certain aspects into the final text has been an incredible journey. It gives an insight into how complex international negotiations can get – and how every comma can matter to the actual impact of the text.

With all that you did at the summit I am sure that your professional background helped you navigate all the challenges that you faced. With that being said, what did you learn at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that helped you at COP28?

One of the main things I learned at BCG has been to quickly adapt and stay flexible, but focused in a high-paced environment– in the case of COP, this can mean that you get an email at 9h to inform you that your delegation has been allocated a time slot to speak to a MEP (Member of the European Parliament) at 10h at the other end of the venue, which demands fast preparation and coordination skills, whilst maintaining your calm. Plans change all the time, so you need to stay updated and know where to get relevant information from. At the same time, it is important that you keep in mind your priorities – there are a few hundred events happening, you cannot and should not try to attend all of them. Within our delegation, we agreed that meeting with European representatives would be one of the most effective ways for us to make youth voices heard, and therefore invested a lot of time and energy into arranging those encounters. But it of course comes at the expense of, for example, having less time to network with other climate activists.

Thank you for that insight. As a follow up, I wanted to ask you what you think should be done within the finance world to improve the current situation as it pertains to climate advocacy?

A lot! We need to increase private flows towards climate finance – we risk a financial breakdown if banks keep investing in fossil fuels, as we need to be moving away from them. Policy-makers can create incentives to channel money towards greener alternatives, e.g. by increasing public-private blended financing opportunities. We also need to be bridging the adaptation gap. The Global North needs to scale up their contributions towards adaptation measures in lower-income states. Finally, we will also have to rethink the global financial architecture to ensure fair representation.

As you mentioned in your previous answer, there is a lot more that can be done to help combat climate change and climate justice is a critical aspect of addressing environmental issues. How do you think the conference addressed or acknowledged the importance of climate justice?

My impression was that climate justice was a very important demand from many civil society groups at COP. Climate justice and climate finance go hand in hand – those who have been profiting from carbon-intensive technologies for centuries have to be the ones who take most of the responsibility and cover the most important part of the costs. It cannot be those who already suffer most of the consequences. However, in practice, when we look at the Loss and Damage fund for example, we see that we are still billions of dollars short of our promises. Climate justice will therefore continue to be something activists need to be fighting for.

Thank you so much for your participating. As a final question, I wanted to ask you how do you plan to apply the knowledge and experiences gained from the COP conference in your future endeavors or advocacy for climate action?

Participating at COP as a delegate gave me important insights into international climate negotiations, which are invaluable to prepare effective climate advocacy campaigns. I also met with many new people that I am hoping to reconnect with at events in the upcoming months! My plan is to leverage this new knowledge and the connections to make my advocacy work, for example with the ProVeg Youth Board, more impactful, and share the learnings with other activists to fight together for a just transition towards a more sustainable world.