Cambridge heads to COP28

Young people, business, education, and conservation to feature in University events at UAE climate conference.

Burj Al Arab Dubai during daytime

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Photo by Darcey Beau on Unsplash

The University of Cambridge heads to COP28 in Dubai, UAE, with a film premiere and a host of higher education events.

The University will see representation from Cambridge Zero, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, the Centre for Climate Repair, the Aviation Impact Accelerator, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, Cambridge Conservation Initiative and a host of researchers.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an annual international climate summit. At COPs, world leaders gather to work together on solutions to tackle climate change. There are now 198 Parties (197 countries plus the European Union) to the Convention, constituting near universal membership since COPs began three decades ago.

While global negotiators celebrate the initial progress this week on setting up a loss and damage fund, work to improve nationally determined contributions on greenhouse gas emissions and seek agreements that will push the world towards a net zero future, the University of Cambridge is working with 12 other higher education institutions to deliver a two-week programme of events and activities through the Higher Education Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai this year.

The focus of the pavilion is to strengthen the presence of university representation at COP, bringing together various thought leaders to guide and support the just energy transition and implement adaptation measures to achieve net zero emission targets. Cambridge’s contribution will include sessions on Ocean Based Carbon Dioxide Removal, Landscape Regeneration, and the critical role of the Built Environment.

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Photo by Karen Cann on Unsplash

brown concrete building during daytime

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Photo by Kara M on Unsplash

Higher Education Collaboration

Cambridge will also be focused on its Network of Networks (NoN), a coalition of Higher Education (HE) networks and international organisations co-convened by Cambridge and the University of Toronto with the purpose of harnessing the increasing activity in this space to facilitate radical collaboration inside and beyond the sector. 

The NoN developed out of a number of round-table meetings at COP26 in Glasgow and met in person for the first time at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

This year will be the largest meeting of the group to date, where it will seek to establish a vision and priorities for 2024, with the aim of catalysing international collaboration through HE sector support. 

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Photo by wes lewis on Unsplash

Climate Change is a collective challenge that requires collective action.

"Universities have an important role to play, not just in reducing our own emissions as a sector, but through supporting international collaboration and facilitating knowledge exchange.

"As HE climate networks, we are working to support governments and non-state actors in accelerating the transition to a resilient and zero-carbon world.”

- Stephen Davison, Director of Strategy for Cambridge Zero, the University's climate change initiative.

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Call for youth inclusion

Alongside its involvement in the NoN, Cambridge Zero will also launch ActNowFilm at COP28 in the Green Zone on 8 December.

ActNowFilm features young people from Lesotho to London in 30 candid conversations with influential leaders, such as former Ireland President Mary Robinson and Christiana Figueres, architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement and Chair of Prince William's Earthshot Prize.

In ActNowFilm, young people and global climate experts tell each other about their personal experiences of the devastating effects of climate change, express their frustration over the slow pace of current global action to reduce emissions and urgently call for young people to play a much more significant role in the national and international climate negotiating teams discussing the future of their lives on Earth.

Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders, will kick off the launch of ActNowFilm in the Green Zone's Terra Auditorium on Friday 8 December 15:00-16:30 as part of COP28’s Youth, Children, Education and Skills Day.

The film will also screen at COP28 on Saturday 9 December 15:00-16:30 in the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate Pavilion.

“The young people in ActNowFilm understand what action is needed, have witnessed first-hand the destructive effects of climate change and are determined to influence the agreements that will define their future on this Earth"

- Cambridge Zero Head of Education Dr Amy Munro-Faure. 

Leadership for a sustainable future

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is attending COP28 with eight policy asks of the Parties, designed to unlock private sector ambition and galvanise their participation in delivering the Paris Agreement goals.

The Institute will also host and participate in a raft of events, including supporting UNICEF’s Innovation30 - Young Climate Innovators Shaping the Future.

Aligned with Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the initiative aims to build a pipeline of scientifically vetted climate innovations created by under 30s, placing them centre-stage as stakeholders, technical experts, and designers driving climate solutions. The first global cohort of young innovators will be launched at COP28. 

With a world facing crises on multiple fronts, it’s vital we empower young people to lead us into a positive future,” said James Cole, Chief Innovation Officer, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. 

Other CISL hosted events include:

  • A Race to Zero event with CISL’s Corporate Leaders Group showcasing the actions UK businesses to support the government in meeting its net zero by 2050 target and exploring the opportunities and challenges for business and government to take further action. An initial panel will feature Nigel Topping, UK's High-Level Climate Action Champion, as well as comments and reflections from leading business speakers
  • A discussion asking how we scale up the production of sustainable aviation fuels which also previews some of the findings of a global aviation model, developed by experts from around the world. Aviation Impact Accelerator lead Professor Rob Miller will present at this event.
  • A UNFCCC Official Side-Event with International Union for the Conservation of Nature, KfW and the Wildlife Conservation Society examining the conditions under which climate change and biodiversity can be achieved, with a view to maximising co-benefits and minimise trade-offs.

Additionally, the Cambridge Climate Governance Initiative (CGI) will be hosting numerous panels on the climate transformation of business and the economy.

CGI equips boards of directors with the skills and knowledge needed to make climate a boardroom priority. and will be bringing together an expert panel in a post-COP webinar to explore the Key Takeaways from COP28 for the Boardroom.

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Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

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Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Greening education, economics, and engineering

Other Cambridge attendees at COP28 include Cambridge Press and Assessment (CUP&A), where Global Director of Climate Education Christine Özden will be leading a workshop at COP28’s Greening Education Hub.

The session will bring together local and global partners to discuss vital learnings around the provision of climate literacy for learners in different contexts; how to embed it into diverse education systems and how to scale it.

The Centre for Climate Repair (CCR), University of Cambridge is hosting events which open up the thinking at COP28 to actions beyond emissions reduction. Whilst emissions reductions are of course absolutely critical, there is no pathway to 1.5 degrees Celsius considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which relies just on rapid decarbonisation. Most of the actions being considered in the COP process are focused on emissions reduction. 

CCR are engaging audiences using a range of panellists from different backgrounds, contexts and ages in order to stimulate discussion and thought as to other potential actions which we might consider. These include a range of Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) approaches spanning from purely nature-based ones to fully engineered solutions. 

CCR are also looking at the timescales involved in scaling up GGR approaches; from what this means for vulnerable communities to what actions could be considered to help stave off the worst effects of climate change, whilst scale-up of GGR occurs.

There are various ideas for Refreezing the Arctic including Marine Cloud Brightening, Stratospheric Aerosol Injection and even pumping of sea water onto the top of sea ice.

"None of these have been fully developed and we need to further our understanding of the risks and benefits of technologies, so that society can make more informed decisions as to whether they could play a role in the journey to a 1.5 degrees Celsius world," said CCR Director Dr Shaun Fitzgerald.

Members of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) will host multiple events in the Blue Zone for networking and advocating for better finance for forest conservation and restoration, while Land Economy's Professor of Climate Law Harro van Asselt will be organising and attending events on Climate and trade linkages as well as Climate Transparency.

Published 01 December 2023

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