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Thoughts from Marrakech: My visit to the UN Climate Change conference, COP22


December 8th, 2016 - Posted under: General Sustainability - Leave a Comment

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This post is written by Kirsty Bowen, Media Relations Officer in the Corporate Communications department. As part of her role, she got to visit Marrakech for the UN Climate Change conference and shares her experience with us.

In November, I was lucky to visit Marrakech where I joined the University’s delegation at the United Nations Climate Change conference, COP22. But our visit was disrupted by the news that Donald Trump, a man who had called climate change ‘a hoax’, had been elected President on the day we arrived.

As soon as we got to the venue, our academics were approached by a French TV crew to get their thoughts on Trump’s victory. Unsurprisingly, they said this was a disaster for the climate and a disaster for global equality.

 I was there with my two work ‘hats’ on – as Communications Officer for Energy 2050 and Media Relations Officer in Corporate Communications. The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and the Energy 2050 institute had organised events at the conference and were meeting with leaders and organisations to share their expertise in creating a more sustainable world.

 

Kirsty with the University of Sheffield speakers and other conference attendees

Kirsty with the University of Sheffield speakers and other conference attendees

 

My role was to raise awareness of the university at COP22 and to gain publicity of our academics expertise and research in the area of sustainable energy and food security.

But it was also my interest in halting climate change and hearing more about the important work that our talented academics and students do that made this a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.

Arriving at the conference on Wednesday, I was struck immediately with how large the event was. Consisting of many large tents, the conference was split into a ‘green zone’ and a ‘blue zone’. The green zone was open to the public and organisations where businesses could showcase innovations or raised awareness of issues. I had a pass for the ‘blue zone’, the area where countries had individual displays and rooms where they could hold discussions. This was the area too where negotiations took place.

More than 100 nations including the US, China and India had already ratified the agreement and so their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have taken a formal shape. These are the actual actions that countries choose in as part of the Paris agreement – the historic consensus that was agreed at COP21 in order to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

The University hosted and participated in 7 seminars with discussions on the global energy transition, food security and innovation with a range of international partners.

Professor Tony Ryan, Professor Duncan Cameron and Grantham Scholar, Niall Bradshaw speaking on a panel about food security.

Professor Tony Ryan, Professor Duncan Cameron and Grantham Scholar, Niall Bradshaw speaking on a panel about food security.

Energy 2050 held panel discussion on the subjects such as alternative aviation fuels, an area in which our university is leading the way. It’s an area of research that we don’t hear a lot about but it’s very important. We aren’t going to cut air travel totally – but by using alternative fuels, we could reduce emissions and enjoy more sustainable travel.

As well as listening to these interesting discussions, I was able to visit many stands in the different zones and hear about how countries are tackling climate change and see new technologies.

However it felt surreal to be immersed in all the conversations and actions for tackling climate change when the President-elect of the biggest economy in the world was pushing for a resurgence in the US coal industry and tearing up of the Paris Agreement.

Although the mood was downbeat, I left Marrakech in a positive mood. I had been surrounded with talented and passionate colleagues who were determined to find better ways for humans to live more sustainably and equitable on this earth.



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