Dubai bound for climate talks

28 Nov 2023

Year 10 students Kentaro Sabatino (Thursday Island) and Elianah Tabuai (Old Mapoon) will represent NRL Cowboys House on the world stage over the next two weeks as they jet off to Dubai for COP28 UAE - United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The two Interact Club students will travel as part of a group of six students in partnership with Pimlico State High School for the conference that runs 30 November to 12 December, where they will connect with individuals from across the world to discuss and learn more about how climate change is impacting their generation.

The event offers a platform for different groups including youth groups, civil society, NGOs, the private sector and indigenous people to have their voices heard, promoting dialogue and awareness about climate action through conferences, panel discussions, presentations and more.

For Elianah, whose coastal home is situated on the mouth of the Wenlock River in Cape York, the conference presents a vital opportunity for her to discuss how climate affects culture as she notices delays in the arrival of the wet season.

“Climate change is something I’ve thought about especially during this year because the wet season hasn’t really come and that has a lot to do with climate change,” she said.

“The environment is very important to my culture, having sacred places and especially with erosion being a very bad thing, sacred places get destroyed during the wet season cycle and through cyclones, and that destroys people’s hearts because it means a lot to them.

“I’m also keen to learn more about the culture over there; I have a culture myself and I love telling people and teaching people about my culture and I love to learn about theirs.”

Kentaro and Elianah’s attendance at COP28 is made possible by support from the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation, fundraising at home in community, NRL Cowboys House fundraising activities and contribution from the students’ families.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the main decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and brings together the 198 Parties – 197 nations plus the European Union – that have signed on to the Framework Convention.

COPs serve as the formal meeting place each year for the Parties to negotiate and agree on how to tackle climate change, reduce emissions and limit global warming, with COP28 hosting over 70,000 delegates including heads of state and world leaders.

The first COP was held in 1995.

Kentaro said travelling to a big city like Dubai will be a big change from what the pair are used to in Townsville, and worlds away from his home in the Torres Strait Islands, but is looking forward to making his voice heard about issues that affect his home on the global stage.

“Sea level rising (is impactful), most of the islands in the Torres Strait are flat and they’ll get submerged under water if the sea level keeps rising,” he said.

“(I’m hoping to) learn about their culture too, see how they do things and… simply hoping to gain more understanding of climate change.”

According to the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), sea levels in the region are increasing at a rate of 6-8mm per year.

Both students are creating footprints for both their families and communities, with both students travelling further than anyone else in their family has before.

They’re looking forward to representing their families, cultures and homes with pride and giving others from around the world a chance to learn about the Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait Islands.

The two-week journey across the world won’t be all work, however, with the House students provided the opportunity to enjoy some of Dubai’s iconic tourist attractions.

While Elianah is excited to taste-test Arabian coffee, both are looking forward to experiencing the local cuisine while visiting the Burj Khalifa, Ferrari World Theme Park and enjoying a speedboat tour of Dubai.