The first annual Climate Con 2024 hosted by the Climate Leader program of the Waterloo Climate Institute brought more than 100 people together to explore cross-disciplinary collaboration in climate action and research. The goal of the event was to inspire attendees to be catalysts for change while highlighting contributions to climate change research being undertaken by students. Part of the full-day programming focused on spotlighting community initiatives, climate leadership, and movements on campus focused on climate action.

This year's convention focused on diverse voices, sharing the interdisciplinary nature of the climate crisis and the innovative ways students are tackling the challenge from different perspectives. 

Indigenous deer hide drum

The morning sessions started the with an Indigenous welcome from Elder Myeengun Henry, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper with the Faculty of Health. Elder Myeengun Henry, shared words of connections and collaboration, recognizing the past and working toward reconciliation, and working together to take care of the land and water. He spoke of hope and the collaborative effort needed to deal with climate change through a justice and reconciliation lens.

I really enjoyed seeing other disciplines and the work they are doing - for example, it was interesting to learn how statistics students are studying climate negotiations

- Climate Con Participant

Large banner with 'climate con 2024 art wall'

Attendees were invited to contribute to the collaborative art project throughout Climate Con.

The Indigenous welcome was followed by a keynote address by Waterloo alum, Ashoke Mohanraj. Ashoke encouraged participants to take action towards addressing climate change and not to worry about how big or small an impact it makes. He identified taking action as a method to combatting climate-anxiety. 

The day encompassed three breakout sessions full of engaging workshops, research presentations and student panels. The content was designed by students, for students with opportunities to learn about new disciplines and build leadership skills for future climate action. Topics covered included, climate policy and governance, urban and youth experience, green transitions and UN negotiations, and nature-based solutions and adaptation.

Two students sitting at a registration desk with name tags

During the lunch break, there was a research showcase that featured student posters from across the six faculties at the University of Waterloo. The winner of the popular vote was Navya Nair, a PhD student in the Faculty of Environment. In addition, attendees were able to contribute to a collaborative art installation, detailing their experience at Climate Con as well as their reflections and thoughts on how to best incorporate climate change education into their courses.

The day wrapped up with a climate social where students could network and build lasting relationships while enjoying light refreshments, mocktails, and taking group photos at the photobooth. Feedback received from the participants indicates the Climate Con was very well received and it should become an annual event. 

It was an inspiring day of engagement, discussion, learning and relationship building. It highlighted the ways in which students are engaging in climate action across campus and provided opportunities to learn skills to further promote climate action in the future.

Student presenting poster to conference attendee

Student presenting poster at the research showcase over lunch break.

Student presenting poster to conference attendee
Students grouped for photo attending conference.