IC3 and Environment students head to Paris for United Nations Climate Conference

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This week, political leaders from all over the world, including new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will arrive in Paris to negotiate a plan to fight global climate change. The University of Waterloo is sending a handful of students to be on the ground in the French capital as the historic agreement unfolds around them.

group of students

IC3's Sarah Brown and Professor Ian Rowlands with COP21 student delegates.

Ways to follow:

Officially known as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, it’s the 21st meeting of its kind. Commonly known as COP21, the nations represented at the conference aim to develop a legally binding and universal agreement on how to take action against climate change.

With the support of UWaterloo’s Faculty of Environment and the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), two groups of three students, who are also working closely with a home team of volunteers, will participate in activities that aim to set a path forward for aggressive action against climate change. Throughout the two week event, they will be meeting with other delegates from Canada and around the world, listening to world leaders and experts speak, keeping a close eye on the negotiation process, and looking for opportunities to send stories and news back to Canada.

“Our students will be the ones fighting climate change into the future. Their engagement in an event which will determine that future is vital,” said Jean Andrey, dean of the Faculty of Environment. “The selected students will have the opportunity of a lifetime, but also the responsibility to represent their peers here in the Faculty of Environment and across campus. We look forward to following their story and engaging with them as it unfolds.” 

The students will also act as ambassadors for UWaterloo and share our contributions towards building a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone. In particular, they will be sharing information about the range and depth of research being conducted on sustainability at UWaterloo while identifying opportunities to do more.

“Having Waterloo represented at such an important negotiation is far more than symbolic to me,” says Rahul Mehta, a master’s student at Waterloo’s School of Planning. “It serves as a platform for us to share our story on how we are addressing climate change. I also see the relationships, even friendships, that are developed at such a conference among like-minded actors to be important for personal development, stronger connections to my Canadian peers in this discipline and perhaps even future career opportunities!”

The main issues at COP21 are targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the hopes of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, adaptation, loss and damage, financing, technology transfer and capacity building in developing countries.

“I think it’s scary that we don’t have much time to make big changes in greenhouse gas emission reductions to keep us around 2 degree of warming,” says Michelle Gordon, an undergraduate student in Environment and Resource Studies. “If warming increases past this threshold, we will be seeing increasingly dangerous impacts within our lifetimes.” 

A critical component of the student-centred mission at COP21 is communicating with the University of Waterloo community at large via a dedicated home communications team.

Sara Ganowski, Communications Lead

“While we have an incredible group of students representing UW on the ground in Paris, the home team is a pillar of support for the ground team, and is instrumental in relaying important information and updates from our delegation back home and sending their questions and thoughts to Paris,” says Sara Ganowski, a member of the COP21 home team, and its communications lead. “We are also hosting various engaging COP21 events here on campus to help spread the word about climate change and facilitate meaningful discussions on how to take action.”

Over the course of the event, which runs from November 30th to December 11th, you are invited to follow our students on social media and the Faculty of Environment website as they report live from the historic event. 

There are many ways to follow our students as they head off to Paris. They will be sharing just about everything on the Climate Students Blog.

You can also get the latest up to the minute information by following @ClimateStudents and @EnvWaterloo on twitter and Instagram.

The students will also be sharing their personal experiences on social media. Meet some of the students representing us at COP21 and find out how you can follow them below:


Alexandra Graham 
Follow: @ClimateStudents on Twitter


Bianca Salive 
Follow: @biancasalive on Twitter & Instagram


Sivakumar Kuppuswamy 
Follow: @shivkswamy on Twitter


Dominique Souris 
Follow: @dominiquesouris on Twitter


Rahul Mehta 
Follow: @OpportunCity on Twitter


Michelle Gordon 
Follow: @michelledgordon on Twitter


Ian Rowlands 
Follow: @IanHRowlands on Twitter

Story adapted from Faculty of Environment News