COP27: Delegates From the Columbia Climate School Share Their Plans and Hopes

by |October 31, 2022

6 headshots of researchers attending cop27

This November, the COP27 climate summit will take place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference will bring together all kinds of people — world leaders, citizens, academics, activists, and representatives from businesses, local governments, non-profit organizations, and more — to discuss and implement solutions to climate change.

For journalists: Experts from Columbia Climate School will be attending COP27 and are available to comment. See who’s going.

A number of representatives from the Columbia Climate School will be in attendance at COP27 to give talks, host panel discussions, and make connections that could lead to innovative collaborations. We spoke to a few attendees about their hopes and expectations for the conference.

Lisa Dale is a lecturer at the Columbia Climate School.

Lisa Dale

What will you be doing at COP27?

I’ll be listening and learning as much as possible. While I do have a number of speaking engagements and panels where I will be presenting, I always find the most value at a COP by hearing what others are thinking. My academic interests center around climate adaptation in rural areas, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, so I’ll attend as many presentations as I can where Africans share their experiences and challenges.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

‘Networking’ is a buzzword that can be over-used, but in this case I mean it sincerely! Meeting people from around the world is what makes COP so exciting, and it is my hope that I forge new connections. My recent work in Rwanda means I’m particularly keen to connect with the Rwandan delegation. I also have many friends and colleagues who work in UN-affiliated agencies on climate change adaptation issues, and we only seem to get together in person at the annual COP. After a few years of pandemic disruptions, attending this event in person with so many others should be energizing.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

There will be much media attention on the negotiations themselves, where most of those talks are focused on mitigation; that is, pushing countries to reduce their emissions will be a central thread that runs through the program. But my interest is more on the adaptation side. Loss and damage conversations will be really interesting to follow, and I’m eager to hear how these issues are being discussed. I hope to see the world break through the logjam over reparations, and focus on concrete ways the Global North can support the Global South as they work to infuse sustainable development and climate change adaptation into their strategies for economic growth.

robbie parks headshot

Robbie Parks, a former Columbia Climate School postdoctoral fellow, is an assistant professor in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University.

Robbie Parks

What will you be doing at COP27?

I will be an official observer representing Columbia University in the second week of COP27. I’m really excited!

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

I hope to professionally and personally advocate for the importance of focusing on the mental and physical health impacts of climate change, particularly in post-disaster environments, to meet like-minded colleagues and friends, and to understand a little more about how the process of creating climate change mitigation and adaptation policy on the global scale functions. I would also like to connect with colleagues from across the world to find ways and funding to collaborate on research relevant to climate change and public health.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

I would specifically like to see a greater and more equitable funding commitment to funding mitigation and adaptation of the public health consequences of climate change in countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC), particularly for mental health and non-communicable diseases, which are currently underserved in most NDCs.

Belinda Archibong headshot

Belinda Archibong is an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Belinda Archibong

What will you be doing at COP27?

I’ll be participating as an observer as part of the Columbia University delegation.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

My research is on the economics of epidemics, and particularly how climate-induced epidemics affect gender inequality and the wellbeing of vulnerable populations like children within countries, particularly in Africa. I also have research on the effects of air pollution from gas flaring on human capital development, with a focus on the effects of pollution on children and women, who are often among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations around the world. I’m hoping to contribute to the discussions around policy informed by my and other scholars’ research, that focuses on distributive justice and equity objectives in framing effective climate change policy moving forward.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

Significant increases in climate financing from rich countries, especially in the US and Europe, to poorer countries, particularly in Africa which is the region in the world that has contributed the least to historic and current emissions and will bear the brunt of the negative impacts of global warming. Along these lines, I’d also like to see a serious discussion on climate reparations and additional financing with a focus on rectifying past climate injustices done to marginalized communities and countries around the world.

 Sonya Dyhrman headshot

Sonya Dyhrman is a biological oceanographer at Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Sonya Dyhrman

What will you be doing at COP27?

I am planning to participate in one or more panels, and interact with stakeholders in support of sharing the science we need to consider in the context of a changing climate. This is the first year that there will be an ocean pavilion in the Blue Zone [where the UN negotiations take place] with other stakeholder groups. As an oceanographer, this represents a new exciting opportunity to highlight the critical interplay that exists between the ocean and the climate, where the knowledge gaps are, and how we work towards a sustainable future. With generous support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, I have been studying the resiliency of ocean ecosystems and I hope to highlight this work, and that although there are still knowledge gaps, the findings are important for supporting policy.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

In every pinhead-size drop of sea water there is a complex network of microbes that transforms vast amounts of carbon dioxide into other forms of carbon. The activity of this network controls ocean ecosystems, carbon cycling and global fisheries, but these processes are poorly constrained, making it hard to predict their sensitivity to a changing ocean. I am a co-PI on a project funded by the National Science Foundation that received “endorsed action” status from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. This project is called the Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet and the research will better constrain how carbon is cycled in the surface ocean. I am hoping to highlight how work in the Center, in combination with my previous and ongoing work on ecosystem resiliency, can help inform climate prediction, management and mitigation efforts.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

I am hoping that a major takeaway from the unprecedented presence of an ocean pavilion in the Blue Zone is broader recognition for the ocean as a stakeholder in climate action, and the critical interplay between ocean chemistry, ocean life, and climate.

perrine toledano speaking at an event

Perrine Toledano is the director of research and policy at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment.

Perrine Toledano

What will you be doing at COP27?

I will be going both on behalf of the University and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. I am hoping to bring visibility to the progressive views and body of work of our institution by talking on panels, participating from the audience and interacting with colleagues and partners.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

In addition to the above, I am hoping to discover the work and action of others and identify with whom we could work in synergy for climate action. I am hoping to understand where the world still misses good policy answers that our team at CCSI could work on to usefully contribute to the global conversation.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

Developing countries need incredible financial support to jump on the bandwagon, embrace the transition and leap frog emissions when they can still do it. I am hoping that the rich world will pull its act together to address their needs and create true just transition partnerships.

I am hoping that politics, geopolitics and the current energy crisis will not interfere with ratcheting up ambition and commitments. Emissions keep rising when they should be divided by two in 2030. The world is running out of time and the cost of inaction is becoming unbearable for humanity. The current energy crisis is interpreted by some as the return of the heydays of fossil fuels when this is in fact a confirmation that only with an accelerated energy transition will we reach energy security and stability. I hope this latter interpretation will prevail at COP.

alessandra giannini headshot

Alessandra Giannini is an adjunct senior research scientist at the Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Photo: Francesco Fiondella

Alessandra Giannini

What will you be doing at COP27?

I am accompanying a group of students from l’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS), in Paris. Every year, we select a small team of students, diverse in terms of disciplinary background, who travel to the COP to represent the school.

Since I am a novice, like this year’s students, I am planning to follow a little bit of the negotiations (like the work of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and/or around Article 6 — essentially, the contributions of science and education/knowledge transfer to the negotiations) in the blue zone, to get a feel for the glacial pace of their advancement. I’ll spend most of my time in the green zone, following side events focusing on climate change policy — adaptation and the energy transition — in Africa.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

In this run-up to the COP, I’ve repeatedly heard people say that the climate change COP has become the only real global venue — a fitting characterization of the task at hand, given that nothing quite meets the planetary scale of human influence on the climate. In other words, the COP is the only place where people from all over, all geographies and many walks of life, can exchange and get to know each other. I hope to meet old colleagues, and especially new ones involved in developing education efforts around climate change.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

Since the COP is being held in Africa, I would hope to see increased consciousness emerge about the relationship between inequality and climate change, at all scales.

john furlow headshot

John Furlow is the director of the Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Photo: Jackie Turner/IRI

John Furlow

What will you be doing at COP27?

At COP, there is a mix of negotiations and networking opportunities. I like to listen in to some of the negotiations, but mostly I go to see colleagues from organizations and to participate in events about IRI’s or the Climate School’s work. My colleague Melody and I have a side event in the World Meteorological Organization’s pavilion. That’s with the UK Met Office. We will be talking about climate services and the results we achieved in the ACToday project, a Columbia World Project IRI implemented from 2017-2022. I may take part in a few other events as well. And it’s fun to see people and learn about new approaches to climate and development.

What do you personally hope to achieve while you’re there?

I hope our events go well, and that we are able to tell people about our work. IRI focuses on supporting developing countries as they deal with climate challenges from season to season. Seasonal forecasts offer critical information for farming and vector borne disease management. I think this type of information is critical to helping people deal with climate impacts that they are experiencing already.

What are some larger-scale actions or takeaways that you’re hoping to see come out of the summit?

I’d like to see serious follow-through on commitments for emissions reductions and funding to support developing countries. And I’d like to see progress on Loss and Damage, an issue that is critical for islands, drought-prone countries, and countries that rely on glaciers for water storage. I’d like to see the urgency of taking action match the urgency of the problem and the debates.

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