On April 11, eleven members of the University of California delegation to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) gathered to give a special “thank you” to generous donors who provided funding to send seven student delegates from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to Paris to participate in the COP21 conference in December 2015. In addition to the student delegates, six Scripps Oceanography leadership and researchers attended the historic event.
At the conference, 195 countries adopted a landmark document known as the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. Countries began formally signing the agreement on Earth Day, April 22.
A private reception in the Feeling the Heat climate exhibit at Birch Aquarium at Scripps gave donors a unique opportunity to speak with COP21 delegation members and students. (View photo gallery here.)
Scripps Director Margaret Leinen, who spoke on multiple panels at COP21 to fight for inclusion of the ocean in agreement texts, welcomed attendees at the local event and conveyed her personal thanks to donors for their support. Leinen also shared a few words about the history of past support for previous Conference of the Parties (COP), stating that the UC Revelle delegation based at Scripps first began sending students to the climate talks in 2001, and has since sent dozens of graduate students to COPs around the world. The delegation represents the entire University of California system at COPs and other meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was established in 1992.
“Our students are the brand ambassadors of Scripps Oceanography and UC San Diego at the Conference of the Parties, and in face-to-face interactions deliver the message of Scripps science to people from around the world,” said Leinen. “They network and build relationships with delegates and negotiators who may know little about what Scripps is all about.”
Leinen was not the only one to share these sentiments. The program for the evening was peppered with individual “thank you” messages from each student, describing how impactful the conference was for them.
“I was able to gain extremely valuable insights during restricted negotiations and plenary talks which I then communicated to the public using various social media outlets,” said Kirk Sato, a graduate student in biological oceanography at Scripps. “Collectively, the small contributions we [students] each made led to the inclusion of oceans in the eventual Paris Agreement text and restored faith in the multilateral policy process. What more motivation could an ocean scientist ask for than witnessing world leaders representing nearly 200 countries agree to limit global warming, protect vulnerable societies from climate change, and preserve ecosystems and biodiversity?”
After the reception, donors joined the COP21 delegates in the galleria of the aquarium for a special edition of the monthly Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series, which also showcased a unique insider’s look at UC San Diego’s role at COP21.
The highlighted speakers for the lecture were Veerabhadran Ramanathan; distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences, who spoke about the pivotal role played by the Holy See Delegation; David Victor, director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at UC San Diego, who described why negotiations at COP21 were more successful than previous efforts to form agreements; and graduate student Kaitlyn Lowder, who discussed the joint effort of the student delegation members to include the ocean in climate talks and ultimately in the final agreement text.
The evening concluded with a brief Q&A session when another student delegation member, Yassir Eddebbar, shared his excitement to hopefully have the chance to travel with other students to COP22, which will be in Marrakech, Morocco, not far from his hometown of Rabat. The delegation of Scripps representatives for COP22 is being formed and the final roster – based on merit and available funds – will be determined this summer.
It is with support of generous donors that early career scientists are able to participate first-hand in important climate negotiations and in the process gain valuable insights and experience on how to practically apply their science in the policy arena.
- Laura Lothian