I'm Harry Rostron, a youth climate activist and third-year student studying Architecture and Environmental Engineering at the University of the West of England. As a Zayed Sustainability Prize Youth Ambassador, I had the privilege of participating in COP28 this past year, an event which left an impression on me and altered my perspective of the climate movement.
Growing up in Indonesia I developed a love for island nations and a personal mission to protect the most vulnerable countries against a rapidly changing climate. When I learned that a historic agreement was reached on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund on the first day of the conference, I knew that COP28 was going to go down in history. With over $700 million pledged, the fund marks a critical starting point for bridging the gap between the global North and South.
The invitation to serve as a Youth Ambassador at COP28 was especially exciting for me, as it opened doors to numerous speaking engagements, a rarity for someone my age. I engaged in constructive dialogue over subjects I feel deeply connected to with people at the centre of the topics.
During the Conference of Youth, I was part of a panel where young people discussed their schools’ sustainability initiatives, focusing on the challenges and innovative solutions we encountered. Later, I participated in a panel that highlighted the need for inclusive digitisation and equitable access, while emphasising the integration of sustainable practices across industries. This talk reinforced the critical role of emerging generations in driving transformative change. I am very proud of my contributions at COP28 where I, as a young person, was encouraged to share my thoughts and actively participate in shaping a better future.
My journey as a changemaker, uniquely positioned at the vital nexus of architecture and sustainability, has been profoundly defined and sharpened by the insightful discussions I engaged in at this pivotal event, which stands at the core of the climate crisis. Witnessing history in the making at COP28 has left a huge impression on me.
The pressing need for transformation in our energy-intensive built environments is clear, and it begins with a field that has captivated me for the past five years: architecture. Engaging with many experts at COP28 has solidified my belief in the urgency of integrating sustainable practices into architecture and construction. This revelation, alongside the significant outcomes on Loss & Damage, stands as one of my most impactful takeaways from the conference.
The voice of the youth is powerful and is now being heard loud across the globe due in part to the increasing inclusivity of COPs. I have been truly inspired by my own generation’s drive to enact meaningful change, and I left the conference with a newfound hope and optimism for the future of our shared planet.