York faculty and grad students attend COP22 in Marrakech

York delegation at COP 22

Every November and December, the news fills with reports about the United Nations (UN) climate change talks.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is one of two international platforms focused on climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation. The other major event is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As part of the UNFCCC events, countries meet at the annual Conferences of the Parties (COP). A key component of the UN events, the COP happens in a different country each year and 2016 marked the 22nd COP.

The York University delegation to COP 22. From left,
Four members of the York University delegation to COP22. From left, York PhD candidate Mark Terry, Professor Idil Boran, MES grad Nancy Ghuman and York graduate student Joanna Patouris

Five researchers from York University attended COP22 as observers. The event was held in Marrakech, Morocco, from Nov. 8 to 18. The delegation was led by Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) philosophy Professor Idil Boran, who was joined by Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Ellie Perkins, recent MES graduate Nancy Ghuman, and current York University graduate students Joanna Patouris (MES) and LA&PS PhD candidate Mark Terry. Western University Professor Irena Creed, who is Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences, joined the York University delegation.

Both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement emerged from negotiations among national governments participating in the COP, and the 22nd meeting focused on how to implement the Paris Agreement.

Professor Ellie Perkins
Professor Ellie Perkins

The York University delegates will share their experiences and observations on the proceedings of COP22 as part of a special event on Wednesday, Jan. 11, from 2 to 4pm in the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, 749 Kaneff Tower. The event is free and open to the public.

“The UNFCCC COP doesn’t only bring together representatives of different countries. While the COP is primarily about international government negotiations relating to how to tackle the impacts of human-caused climate change, it is also a major research hub bringing together academics, think tanks, NGOs and the private sector to interact and create new research synergies through panels and workshops,” said Boran.

Additionally, the COP hosts what is known as the “green zone,” a space open to the public, featuring industry trade shows, renewable energy technologies and innovations, electric cars and more.

As part of the COP, there are numerous cultural performances, art and film exhibits. In addition to government delegations and academic observers, many Indigenous people, artists and environmental advocates attend the COP.

A lion made out of old tires stands guard at COP22. Image by Ellie Perkins
A lion made out of old tires stands guard at COP22. Image by Ellie Perkins

Boran specializes in the ethics and politics of global climate change, and this was her fifth COP. As part of her contribution to COP22, Boran held a panel titled “Linking (I)NDCs and the Global Action Agenda: Realizing Synergies.” Boran also convened a networking meeting at COP for current and potential research collaborators.

An ecological economist focused on water issues, Perkins has carried out extensive research in Africa and Brazil on climate justice, and how local communities may adapt to climate change. Perkins last attended COP15 in Copenhagen, which took place in 2009.

Terry is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and explorer. He specializes in making climate change documentaries. His films and his Youth Climate Report video platform for stories about climate change were featured at COP 22 and in earlier meetings of the COP.

Both Ghuman and Patouris, were able to connect with and support the York University delegation’s activities while pursuing their own research interests at the COP. Ghuman researches the impacts of climate change on energy security. For her MES project, she explored the relevance of the European model of community energy for rural Costa Rica. Patouris is researching the challenges faced by developing countries in balancing their national development priorities and meeting their commitments made to the UNFCCC through their nationally determined contributions.

An exhibit on energy and gender at COP22. Image courtesy of Ellie Perkins
An exhibit on energy and gender at COP22. Image courtesy of Ellie Perkins

Creed, a limnologist and Great Lakes expert, whose research examines ecosystem services and global change, joined the York delegation. Her participation with York University came out of a conversation with Boran and Bazely during the United Nations Association in Canada’s Earth Day celebrations in April 2016, when the three professors presented their research.

Bazely studies the impact of climate change on invasive species and the science-policy-politics nexus of climate change. York University’s participation in the COP came about when she applied for observer status for York University in 2008 as part of her role as director of the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS). She now serves as York University’s key point of contact for the UNFCCC and screens, with the help of Perkins and Boran, the numerous international requests she receives from academics, students and members of environmental groups seeking to join the York delegation.

To attend a COP, university students and researchers must be accredited by a recognized Research & Independent Non-Governmental Organization (RINGO) to UNFCCC, such as York University.

“Access to this accreditation provides an excellent experiential education opportunity for outstanding, engaged students studying multiple facets of climate change,” said Bazely.

More information will be made available at the Jan. 11 session.