Bridging local realities and global climate goals
Juliany Minyety Méndez is a sustainable development expert from the Dominican Republic who will be part of her country’s delegation to COP28, with support from the Global Environment Facility and Climate Reality Project America Latina. In an interview, she shared how her experience growing up in a hurricane-prone area has shaped her thinking about climate vulnerability and the world’s responsibility to help those affected by a crisis they did not contribute to.
What is your area of focus?
I work as a monitoring, evaluation, and learning associate at the Global Green Growth Institute, providing technical assistance to the Dominican Republic government as it works to achieve its climate change targets. This work involves analyzing opportunities to identify and prioritize green growth, mobilize investments in clean technologies and infrastructure, and build institutional capacities to support sustainable development. I like this work as it relates to my bachelor and master’s degrees in political science and human development, and builds on the training I have undertaken since in human rights and project management for development.
When did you become interested in environmental issues?
I was born and raised in San José de Ocoa – a rural province in the southern part of the Dominican Republic. In late 2007, when I was 13 years old, my country was damaged by two consecutive tropical storms that descended upon us without warning, without alerts, without any preparation, and changed everything. For nearly three months, our province was cut off from the rest of the world, with roads impassable due to landslides. I recall the improvised cable cars, like something out of a movie, that were used to transport supplies and medicines into town. People had to navigate risky paths around the mountains to move around. The storms also caused major damage to the agricultural sector.
The Dominican Republic is highly vulnerable to such events as it lies in the hurricane pathway, increasing the likelihood of serious losses and damage each year. This is something I think about all the time, particularly as storms are getting stronger. What are we going to do for those who must abandon their homes due to flooding, river surges, insecurity, and disrupted essential services? What about those whose livelihoods are shattered? These immense hardships weigh heavily on my heart. I had the opportunity to get a wider perspective on this when I worked at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. During my time there, I learned about the significant role of climate change in driving global human displacement. I was so surprised to learn that there is no international mandate for climate-displaced people to qualify for refugee status. This is something I hope will change soon given the scale of the crisis.
What message do you have for today’s political and business leaders?
Extreme climate events are displacing people from their homes, destroying their livelihoods, and threatening their lives. And the people who are suffering the most are those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. This is not just an environmental issue; it's a matter of social and moral justice.
Now that we have achieved the milestone of agreeing to a fund for loss and damage, it is imperative to fund and operationalize it without delay. This COP is a chance to demonstrate our genuine commitment to climate justice and the protection of the most vulnerable. We cannot postpone this urgent task any longer. The time to act is now.
Why is it important to you to be in the negotiating room at COP28?
I will walk into the negotiation room at COP28 as a representative of young people, of women and girls, and of the small island nations who want to see urgent climate action to address their vulnerability in this crisis. Being in the room offers me the chance to learn, share knowledge, and return home with sharper and more effective tools to engage in climate advocacy and policymaking at all levels. I also want my presence to serve as a bridge between global climate goals and the local realities of my country, and hope that my involvement in the negotiations can inspire other young people.
What topic interests you most in the climate negotiations?
Capacity building. It is a cornerstone in climate negotiations – as important as goals and commitments. Building technical and institutional capacities is essential to translate climate policies into concrete, long-term action and impact. This is very important so that countries and communities are able to harness the opportunities of the transition to a low-carbon economy while ensuring that no one is left behind. It means ensuring everyone has access to the tools, information, and knowledge they need to meet climate commitments in a way that advances inclusive and sustainable human development.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I love singing – it brings me immense joy. I’m also involved in community volunteer activities and continuously seek out training opportunities. Currently, I am focused on enhancing my project management skills related to development and international cooperation.