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Environmental Influence

UC voices at COP26

If you haven’t heard the term “COP26” over the last month, you might just have been hiding under a rock. The global summit has featured heavily in the media and was held up by many, including climate experts, as one of the world’s best chances to limit the ever-increasing impacts of climate change.

Determined not to miss out on such a crucial event, University of Canberra students and staff from across various disciplines made sure to get involved by hosting and participating in events throughout the conference.

The first of these took place just days after the summit kicked off and was organised by the University’s newly-established Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Research Network (CCARRN), in collaboration with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation (CRJO).

Titled COP26: A Local Conversation, the event brought together local leaders to discuss their experiences and aspirations for adapting to a changing climate in the Canberra region.

The event featured a panel and co-hosts with a wealth of expertise, including Leanne Barnes PSM OAM, former General Manager of Bega Valley Shire Council, Dr Alice Howe, Director of Community, Environment & Planning of Bega Valley Shire Council, Kalina Koloff, Chief Executive Officer for CRJO, Ngunnawal Elder Wally Bell, and UC representatives Dr Jacki Schirmer and Professor Barbara Norman.

The event touched on various topics including leadership and community resilience, building and land use in a changing climate, mental health and wellbeing, and caring for country.

Not to be outdone, UC’s Culture and Heritage students were next up to take part in a 24-hour COP26 edit-a-thon for Wikipedia, coordinated by the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Among the over 250 students, researchers and scholars from across the globe, four Bachelor and two PhD students along with members of staff from the Culture and Heritage discipline at the University were involved.

Aiming to spread the word about the role cultural heritage and conservation can play in climate change and action, UC students were some of the first of the blocks to edit relevant Wikipedia pages, and set the pace for their international counterparts to take over.

As the chair of the CCARRN, Barbara then took part in a COP26 side event, along with a panel of experts.

The event, organised by the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), Second Nature (a non-profit which accelerates climate action in and through higher education), the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3) and Drexel University, showcased examples of how universities and cities have collaborated, how climate considerations are being incorporated into higher education and best practices for scaling up.

Providing a virtual presentation from across the world, Barbara spoke on the impacts we are already seeing – and will continue to see – from continuing climate change, and the various networks she has helped establish at UC, including the CCARRN and Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF).

A key message from the event was the role that universities can play on a local, national and even international scale, and the importance of cities in both mitigation and adaptation.

And, last but not least, renowned political journalist and analyst Michelle Grattan AO, a Professorial Fellow at UC, will farewell the Summit with a COP26-themed The Gab with Grattan podcast episode touching on the rich political nature of events such as the summit.

To find out more about the University of Canberra’s COP26 activities, visit the CCARRN website.

Words by Kalyx Jorgensen.

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