'That's something that I’m [hoping] to get a better sense of': UBC sends delegation to COP26

UBC has sent out a delegation of eight students, faculty and staff as observers for the 26th UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

The conference — which started on October 31 and runs until November 12 — is the first international meeting on climate change since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth Climate Report in August which found that global warming caused by human activity is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.”

COP26 will also seek to address targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords and the steps to its implementation.

UBC’s delegates were provided passes by the UBC Sustainability Initiative to act as observers for the events of the conference, with each delegate having their own goals and motivations for attending.

One of the delegates, PhD candidate Max Cohen, applied to attend the conference because his research follows climate politics very closely, particularly the transition between fossil fuels and renewable energy. He is also originally from Glasgow.

According to Cohen, the COP26 events are split between a blue zone and green zone — the former is where main negotiations among world leaders take place, and the latter is where anyone from the local public can educate and promote awareness about the climate crisis. Cohen received a blue zone observer patch.

Cohen recognized his privilege in being able to attend the conference, as people from places without access to vaccinations were denied entry — mainly countries from the Global South, which are “facing the brunt of climate change.”

“There’s a lot of anger over … the underrepresentation of countries ... so, in terms of what I can achieve, it’s trying to listen and amplify those voices that we’re unable to hear,” he said. “I'm also kind of keen to amplify the voice of local people in Glasgow who feel like they haven't been included in the conference.”

UBC chemistry professor Dr. Robert Godin hopes to expand his network to help with his research on solar energy conversion.

“I'm a chemist. So I am on the technological side … but I know that it takes more than technology for [emerging technologies] to have a positive societal impact,” he said.

In attending the conference, Godin hopes to identify the barriers preventing large-scale changes to fixing the climate problem, as well as getting clarification on the financing commitments from previous climate conferences.

Godin was also the chair of a research group that put together part of the Climate Emergency Task Force report at UBC. He observed that among over 5,000 faculty members across both campuses, there are only about 20–30 people working primarily in climate science, which does not meet “the scale to match the challenge that is at hand.”

“There’s no resource point or institute that coordinates all of the climate research at UBC,” he said. “And I feel that there's much greater benefit ... if people talk to each other through a coordinated fashion.”

Godin believes that UBC, as a global institution fostering future scholars, teachers and professionals, should be included in the dialogue for solving the climate crisis.

“You often hear that we have the technology, we have the resources, we just need the will. So why is the will not there? … That's something that I’m [hoping] to get a better sense of over the conference,” he said.