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Rotary leads 28 sessions at United Nations climate conference

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Presentations and workshops at COP28 highlight community-led solutions, partnerships. 


Rotary experts are hosting more than two dozen sessions at the 28th United Nations climate conference, addressing how a changing climate intersects with health, poverty, and other factors. Rotary International President R. Gordon R. McInally will discuss the mental health effects of climate-linked disasters.

The two-week conference in Dubai, also known as COP28 (short for Conference of the Parties, now in its 28th year), is the world’s highest decision-making process addressing climate issues. It brings together more than 70,000 delegates from 197 countries and geographical areas as well as thousands of nongovernmental organizations, companies, and others. Rotary is taking part in the conference for the third time, highlighting community-led solutions, partnerships, and dialogue.

“The record global temperatures this year have underscored the immediate need to take action on climate change,” McInally says. “They have also demonstrated the massive destructive toll that climate has taken on global mental health.”

McInally notes studies connecting extreme heat to greater rates of violence and incidents of mental distress. His presentation will also address the anxiety that younger people feel because of climate change.

Recognizing the central role of young people in shaping a sustainable future, Rotary is sponsoring 12 youth volunteers to attend COP28. This amplifies young voices in the climate discussion and offers the volunteers learning opportunities and international experience.

Rotary’s 28 sessions include presentations by Rotary representatives to the UN and international organizations, as well as UN agencies, NGOs, academia, and corporate entities. Meenakshi Venkataraman, a member of the Rotary Club of Nilgiris West, Tamil Nadu, India, will discuss how invasive species cause biodiversity loss. Salvador Rico, a member of the Rotary Club of South Ukiah, California, USA, will offer an introduction to community-led watershed protection efforts. Venkataraman and Rico are both members of Rotary's Cadre of Technical Advisers.

In addition, Elif Selin Calik, author of “The Renaissance of Smart Energy” and a member of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group, will talk about how artificial intelligence can revolutionize areas like energy, agriculture, and disaster resilience.

Yaseen Mohamed Jaffer Mohsen, president of the Association of Rotary Clubs in the United Arab Emirates, will explore how environmental projects can be financed through corporate partnerships.

 The "Climate Crisis and Health Consequences" panel, held in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, will address the escalating health threats posed by climate change. Moderated by Rose Cardarelli, Rotary International representative to UNICEF, the panel will feature health professionals from Rotary, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and GAVI. 

Other sessions focus on food systems, Indigenous land rights, and related topics.

From supporting vulnerable populations to forging partnerships across the public and private sectors, Rotary members are motivating progress and inspiring action on the environment. Members in the United Arab Emirates are planting 50,000 mangrove trees in partnership with the government. The restoration of mangrove forests, which help protect coastlines and marine life, is a Rotary priority.

“Mangrove ecosystems in the tropics and subtropics around the world are in peril because of their position along coastlines,” says Christopher Puttock, chair of the Rotary Action Group Council and a member of Rotary's Cadre of Technical Advisers. “Because of the rapid sea-level rise we are experiencing, and the persistent need for human coastal development, these ecosystems are being squeezed out of existence. Working with governments and local communities, Rotary has the unique opportunity to assist in mangrove restoration projects.”

Rotary’s COP28 delegation includes Trustee Chair Barry Rassin and General Secretary John Hewko, as well as Judith Diment, dean of the Rotary Representatives to the UN and International Agencies; Mohamed Delawar Aly, Rotary Representative to the Arab League; Yasar Atacik, chair of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group; and K. Neil Van Dine, chair of the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Rotary Action Group.

Rotary International has long worked to protect the environment by collaborating with communities to implement clean water and sanitation, alleviate poverty, and promote sustainable energy technologies. The Rotary Foundation has committed more than US$23.7 million toward environmental projects led by Rotary members around the world.

Learn more about Rotary’s commitment to the environment.

- December 2023

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