UMass Lowell students (left) William Lefebvre, Madison Feudo, Aya Oulal, and Victoria Wisniewski at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai. Image by Victoria Wisniewski
UMass Lowell students, from left, William Lefebvre, Madison Feudo, Aya Oulal and Victoria Wisniewski at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai.

By Jeremy Siegel

The COP28 Climate Summit is underway in Dubai this week, and in attendance alongside leaders from around the world is a group of students from UMass Lowell. The four got to attend talks with global leaders, learn from activists and hear as industry leaders were pressed on the ways in which they're dealing with climate change. They spoke to GBH's Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel about their experience. This transcript has been lightly edited.

Listen to the full interview

Madison Feudo: Hi, I'm Maddie. I am a senior at UMass Lowell.

William Lefebvre: My name is William Lefebvre. I'm a junior sustainability major at UMass Lowell.

Victoria Wisniewski: Hi, everyone. I am Victoria Wisniewski and I am a graduate student here at UMass Lowell with an environmental science and atmospheric science background.

Aya Oulal: I'm Aya Oulal. I'm a senior environmental science student, graduating really soon. And at the conference, it's really interesting to see how everyone at different panels and just in general has a different scope on climate change and how they give a lot of voices to young people. Me and Billy actually just went to a panel that had a 22-year-old activist, and she is really paving the way. And it's really interesting to hear older people, or people of the wiser generation, as someone said as well.

Lefebvre: And just to quickly add on to what Aya was saying at the event we went to today, it's apparent that a lot of people that may be at the later half of Millennials or Baby Boomers are understanding that they have children that are our age and that this is the world that's being led to. So there's that mindset of like, I need to save my children and future children to come.

Wisniewski: It's almost like the handing of a baton, but it's always like, we're going to help you. So that's something that we've experienced this year that's a little bit different from the past. It's now everyone is realizing this is happening and really being able to show us that this is how we can mitigate it.

Jeremy Siegel: Do you all feel hopeful being a part of these discussions?

Feudo: To be completely honest, I am not necessarily hopeful that an abundance of positive change will come from this COP. But I am hopeful that this will inspire people to push back a little more, in the sense that so many people here have been asking questions. People don't seem afraid anymore to look at the heads of state, to look at these major corporations and say, why aren't you doing enough? What is that going to actually do? How is that going to create change? So that gives me a lot of hope because those questions, that little ounce of pushing back, is what generates more progress.

Siegel: What's it like being there in Dubai for a world summit as students?

Lefebvre: We were just talking about it. It's not real. We feel like this is not a real place. It is empowering to have all these people around you and to have all these cultures around you. But it is so different than home and a sense of the scale of these and the environment and the people that we are meeting.

Feudo: It can definitely be a little intimidating too, and seeing the other people that are here compared to, you know, kind of where we are in our stages of life. I was sitting in the Ukrainian pavilion waiting for an event with the Minister for the Environmental Program in Ukraine. And I was the only person there, which is surreal. I have no idea when I'm ever going to get to do something like that again. So it's very intimidating. It's obviously the opportunity of a lifetime, but it's very, very overwhelming, too, in the best way possible.

Siegel: Before I let you all go, for a young student or a kid who's watching or hearing you as students being at a world climate summit, do you all have any advice for someone who is trying to get involved in climate work?

Wisniewski: Take back the microphone, steal it from whoever has it right now, you know, rub some elbows. They were saying that in a lot of the panels that we were in, whether you are a male, or especially a female, there is room for you to speak and there is room for your voice no matter your age.

Oulal: It's so important to share how your climate is affecting you. Speak to your parents, speak to older people. Let them think that you might be childish, but send your message out there and keep doing the little things that people say don't do anything. Recycle. Use public transportation. Be the inspiring person that you would want to see. Be a role model.

Siegel: That was Victoria Wisniewski, Aya Oulal, Maddie Feudo and William Lefebvre from UMass Lowell. You're listening to GBH's Morning Edition.