Students and staff from the University are taking part in this year’s United Nations climate change conference, COP28.

Green screen with the words UN Climate Change written on it, with silouetted figures in front

Image credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A 12-strong delegation of academics and student representatives from Edinburgh are travelling to the summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

They are participating in panels and discussions, seeking to influence the negotiations and contributing to the drafting of text for agreements, recommendations and declarations.

Students and members of the public will be able to virtually engage with Edinburgh’s work at COP28 through online courses and digital passes.

Fourteenth delegation

The annual summit takes place from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

It will bring together world leaders, organisations, climate activists and academics to scale up actions that support the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The conference this year focuses on four cross-cutting themes: technology and innovation, inclusion, frontline communities and finance.

The University delegation, the fourteenth time Edinburgh has been present at the event, is led by Professor Jamie Cross, Professor of Social and Economic Anthropology and Director of the Edinburgh Earth Initiative.

Conference events

Members of the Edinburgh delegation – which includes representatives from each of the University’s three Colleges – will lead on and participate in a range of events during the two-week summit.

Professor Liz Grant will take part in a panel discussion on Sunday 3 December about the critical link between health and climate change.

On Wednesday 6 December, Professor Alan Duncan will take part in an event focussed on the effect of climate change on agriculture and food systems in low- and middle-income countries.

Dr Sian Henley will lead and participate in several events, including a discussion on Wednesday 6 December about what this year’s extremely low sea ice levels tell us about Antarctica’s future.

On Friday 8 December, Professor Sole Garcia Ferrari will participate in a COP28 Universities Climate Network roundtable discussion exploring options to expand university impact in key sectors of the economy and society.

Student delegates

On Saturday 2 December the ClimateScience Olympiad Ceremony – co-organised by Edinburgh student Iona Spooner –  will reveal the finalists of a contest challenging young people to come up with innovative climate solutions.

On Friday 8 December undergraduate student Jana Alramahi will take part in a panel discussion on the role of higher education and research institutions in efforts to tackle climate change.

Postgraduate student Respect Musiyiwa will speak at a U7+ Alliance-led event on 9 December about the impact of university partnerships on delivering climate solutions.

The U7+ Alliance is a group of international universities looking at ways to address the most pressing global challenges. Edinburgh is a founding member of the network, which is made up of more than 30 universities from G7 countries.

Wider engagement

Edinburgh has longstanding connections with the annual COP summits, dating back to COP15 in Copenhagen when the University began sending official delegations.

This year the University has provided delegate passes to the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, in recognition of the importance of partners from the Global South being in attendance at the summit.

Edinburgh’s partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand focuses on research collaborations and opportunities for staff and students to engage in learning and teaching.

In parallel with the summit, the University is running a free, open access, online course called Learning for a Sustainable Future: Live at COP28 in partnership with the British Council and Learning for Sustainability Scotland. It will cover the broader context of COP28, explore the core themes of the summit and share ideas and inspiration on how collaborative action can be taken for a more sustainable future.

The University is also making online passes to COP28 available to students on relevant undergraduate study programmes.

Climate ambitions

In recognition of the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation, the University has set itself ambitious climate targets. These include becoming a net zero carbon institution by 2040.

The University has fully divested from fossil fuels, and is a member of a Responsible Investment Network, which explores how universities can invest more ethically.

The Edinburgh Earth Initiative acts as a focal point for the University’s world-leading teaching and research on climate, drawing on its expertise across numerous disciplines.

It also drives the formation of key strategic relationships with organisations such as the UN Refugee Agency, other academic institutes and funding bodies.

As well as collaborating on climate-related start-ups and scale-ups, the initiative has introduced a fellowship programme that give students the opportunity to work on climate projects of strategic importance. To date, 51 students have been made Edinburgh Earth Fellows.

Professor Jamie Cross, Director of the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, said: “The diverse and cross-disciplinary team we are sending to COP28 embodies the University’s commitment to supporting urgent, knowledge-based action on climate change. With greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures continuing to rise, this year’s summit is a crucial moment to confront the urgent challenges that climate change poses to governments and people around the world.”

Related links

COP28 and the University of Edinburgh