Dr. Johnson Represented UArizona and the Indigenous Resilience Center at the U.N. COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dec. 15, 2023
Dr. Johnson

(Photo credit: COP28)

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference took place in Dubai from November 30th to December 12th, and hosted more then 70,000 delegates from all over the world, including state representatives, business leaders, young people, climate scientists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, and various other experts and stakeholders. This conference, also known as the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28 for short, is the world’s only multilateral decision-making forum on climate change with almost complete membership of every country in the world. COP conferences are where the world comes together to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 (to read more on COP28, visit the UNFCCC website

COP28 focused on four paradigm shifts:

  • Fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030;
  • Transforming climate finance, by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance;
  • Putting nature, people, lives, and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; and
  • Mobilizing for the most inclusive COP ever.

The University of Arizona’ Arizona Initiative for Resilience and International Development (AIRID) and the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS) brought together multi-disciplinary experts from across the University of Arizona and scholars from the Global South who are a part of the Climate Adaptation Research Program (CARP) to form a delegation that brought their expertise to address and advance solutions towards a more resilient future (read the full story here). Ten candidates were selected to attend the COP28 conference, including Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson, a core faculty member of the UArizona Indigenous Resilience Center. The mission of the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes)is to center Indigenous ways of knowing into co-designed environmental solutions and to train the next generation of community leaders. IRes see a world in which Indigenous communities are thriving and adaptable to meet environmental and societal challenges.

Dr. Johnson was a presenter at two panels on Day 10 (December 10th): “Rising to the Challenge: Bridging Water and Food Policies, Practices and Financing for Sustainable Food System Transformation”, and “Regenerative and Nature-positive Agriculture.” Dr. Johnson shared his research and the traditional dryland-farmed and place-adapted Hopi crops that have fed the people for thousands years. He also emphasized that what makes traditional food systems so resilient is not the crops themselves or the technologies but the belief systems that have supported them for millennia. “Nature gives you everything you need to have, but do we slow down enough to watch the little hen cross the road? Probably not, right!?”

When asked about his overall impressions of the COP28 conference, Dr. Johnson responded: “The one thing I am talking away from the conference is that even though Indigenous people were present at COP28, our values and our relationship we have with Nature are still secondary to economic interests of those who control the global food system. However,” he added, “despite the lack of recognition based on our ways of knowing and our relationship with Nature on this level, the Indigenous people will continue to be resilient as we have been since time immemorial.”

For a recap of Day 10, click here, for a full recording of Dr. Johnson’s panel “Regenerative and Nature-positive Agriculture”, click here. The UArizona Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) works on the areas of food, water, and energy with tribes. IRes is located in AIR and supported by the Haury Program. The Center identifies and looks for resources to support co-designing solutions with Indigenous communities. To learn more about their projects, please visit their website.