Moderated by the dean of the faculty of environment Jean Andrey, a panel discussion on the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), the United Nations climate change conference, took place Feb. 1 with panelists Erik Davies, manager of strategic initiatives and special projects at the Centre for International Governance Innovation; Prof. Ian Rowlands of the school of environment, resources, and sustainability; Kitchener mayor Berry Vrbanovic; Alexandra Graham; and Laura Maxwell.</p>
COP21was held in Paris, France Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2015 and marked a big year for both the future of climate change and the UW community, as UW was given official delegate status.
“Every few years, there is a big COP, and this was a big COP,” Rowlands said before comparing how much COP has changed from when it started in 1995. “Instead of celebrations at the end of Paris, I think everyone realized the work is just beginning because we now have to think about how implementation proceeds.”
Not only did UW students go as a delegate team, but they were also able to contribute in delegations outside of the team. Maxwell was part of a team of four students who joined the delegation of the Republic of Kiribati, a small island nation found in the Pacific Ocean and one of the nations at risk of being completely submerged by rising sea levels. “It was a really incredible time to be a part of the Kiribati delegation because the island states were really quite vocal and had a strong focus at COP21,” Maxwell said.
When asked about whether or not there was hope to reverse the trends on climate change and their thoughts on James Hansen’s opinion of COP21, Rowlands said while the Kyoto Protocol did not solve climate change, COP21, the convention that the Kyoto Protocol was a part of, succeeds at bringing politicians and scientists together to discuss these issues at an international level.
“I don’t think [climate change reversal is] too late, but I think it’s getting very late and that’s why I say we need industrial revolution … in the next 10 to 15 years,” Davies said on the topic.
Despite the hardships created by climate change, 195 countries came to an agreement to act on climate change and spoke up on the seriousness of climate change at COP21. The conference also gained support from non-profit organizations and community members from around the world.
“For me, personally, the most exciting part of COP was to be able to witness some of the amazing announcements that were being made about climate action,” Graham said of her experience at COP21.