Temperatures have risen by 1.1° C since the preindustrial era and there is now evidence that this is undeniably driven by humans. As the impacts of climate change are felt across the planet, party negotiation teams, politicians, industry leaders, youth groups, and scientists – including four from Stellenbosch University – are gathering at COP27.
When it comes to tackling climate change, no event is bigger or more important than the United Nations' Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as the annual Conference of the Parties (COP). This year, COP27 takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6-18 November – and Stellenbosch University's (SU's) School for Climate Studies is proud to be part of the programme.
As the only African member of the Global Alliance of Universities of Climate Change (GAUC), the University has joined forces with 14 of the world's leading universities – including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale, Oxford and Cambridge – to provide cutting-edge research and academic insight that can help advance climate change solutions.
Who is attending COP27?
Earlier this year, the SU School for Climate Studies collaborated with fellow GAUC member, Sciences Po University in France, to create a course for the training and development of Global Climate Change Ambassadors. Ten to 15 students from each of GAUC's member universities were selected to take part in the online course, which challenged them to present weekly lectures and discussions on relevant topics, and to solve pressing global climate issues in multicontinental groups.
Two of SU's resulting Global Climate Change Ambassadors are attending COP27, along with the Climate School's Acting Director, Prof Guy Midgley, and Coordinator of Scientific Research, Kerry-Anne Grey. The team hosted an hour-long event on Wednesday, 9 November – dubbed GAUC Day at the China Pavilion in the Blue Zone of COP27 – inviting three prominent speakers – Dr Chris Tresos of the University of Cape Town, Olivia Rumble of Climate Legal, and Dhesigen Naidoo of the South African Presidential Climate Commission – to discuss the Just Energy Transition.
“We're here to show that we have something to say," says Midgley, “and that we have a unique southern African perspective. We want to lay out what the science says from the Africa chapter, and to give this international network of universities a sense of who we are and what we're doing."
The final event of GAUC Day celebrated the work of GAUC and the newly trained Global Climate Change Ambassadors. Having taken part in September's African Regional Forum on Climate Change, as well as GAUC's Global Youth Summit on Net-Zero Future in early November, SU's Global Climate Change Ambassadors were fully prepared to represent SU – and southern Africa – at this high-level event.
What hope to gain
“I really want to come back with a strong understanding of where Adaptation and Loss and Damage discussions are going, what people are thinking about the Global Goal and, for us specifically, where the big training and capacity-building opportunities will be," says Midgley. “It's an opportunity for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, as well as strengthening existing relationships and maybe building some new ones."
In short, it's the start of a new phase for the School for Climate Studies – engaging more closely in forums discussing the world's most serious problems is an important step forward. He says SU is proud to be participating actively in the drive for change, informed by an African academic perspective.