Waterloo students in Paris for UN Climate Change Conference
Environment students get opportunity of a lifetime to meet delegates, listen to experts and share Waterloo sustainability story at COP21
Environment students get opportunity of a lifetime to meet delegates, listen to experts and share Waterloo sustainability story at COP21By Sam Toman Faculty of Environment
As political leaders gather in Paris to negotiate a global agreement on climate change, students from Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment will be on the ground keeping a close eye on the historic negotiations.
Throughout the two-week 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), six students will meet with delegates from around the world, listen to experts speak on climate change and look for opportunities to send stories 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.”
COP21 has an ambitious goal of achieving a legally binding global agreement on climate change. The six students in Paris, working closely with a home team of volunteers, will act as ambassadors by sharing Waterloo’s contributions to building a more sustainable future. The students will also share information about the research going on at Waterloo while identifying opportunities and partnerships.
“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 that are developed at such a conference will be important for personal development and will create stronger connections to my Canadian peers in this discipline.”
The main issues to be negotiated at COP21 are setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the hopes of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Countries will also address issues of 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 2C 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 to COP21 is communicating with the University of Waterloo community at large via a dedicated home communications team.
“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, UWCOP21 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’re 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’ll be sharing just about everything on the Climate Students Blog.
The students will also be sharing their personal experiences on social media. Meet some of the students representing us at COP21 and how you can follow them.
Sarah Brown, associate director of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change
Ian Rowlands, professor and associate dean, strategic initiatives, Faculty of Environment