In December of 2015, 12 students, faculty and staff from UWaterloo travelled to Paris, France as delegates to the “COP21” United Nations Climate Summit. The University of Waterloo had a delegation of 7 people under its own name, while 5 of our students participated as party delegates in support of the Republic of Kiribati and the Seychelles.
After witnessing the events that culminated in 195 countries coming to an international agreement to act on climate change, the delegates were left with a great desire to advocate for stronger political action and to facilitate positive dialogue about steps we can take in our local communities.
As part of this effort, on Monday, February 1, 2016, a panel discussion was held at St. Paul’s University College Alumni Hall on The COP21 Climate Summit: What happened in Paris, and what’s next for Canada? The event was organized and supported by the Faculty of Environment, the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change, Climate Students, and the Waterloo Environment Students Endowment Fund (WESEF).
The panel was moderated by Jean Andrey, Dean of Environment, and featured five speakers who travelled from Waterloo Region to participate in COP21: Berry Vrbanovic (Mayor of Kitchener), Laura Maxwell (Master of Development Practice Candidate), Ian Rowlands (Professor, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability), Erik Davies (Manager of Strategic Initiatives, CIGI), and Alexandra Graham (Master of Planning Candidate).
Although the panelists shared some sobering thoughts, such as the likelihood of the entire country of Kiribati becoming completely submersed due to projected sea level rise, they also reflected on many feelings of hope and encouragement, including the “alignment” of effort at the local, provincial and national scales that is happening in Canada right now. There was consensus that continued dialogue is needed as well as a significant and rapid transition towards reducing our reliance on carbon on local, national and international scales.
“These negotiations are about more than the people who were in Paris and the decisions that were made there. They are about what each and every one of us can do in our own lives to live carbon neutral lives, demand more from our leaders, and recognize this pivotal moment where we decide the fate of humanity.” - Alexandra Graham, Graduate Student, School of Planning and COP21 UWaterloo delegate
The students and researchers of the University of Waterloo look forward to playing a continued role alongside the many individuals and organizations throughout Waterloo Region who are working collaboratively, taking action, and planning for a changing climate to ensure a sustainable future for our community and the planet.