UO experts speak at UN climate summit COP26

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In Glasgow, Scotland, 20,000 delegates from 196 countries converged to hear the latest scientific breakthroughs, negotiate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, secure funding for developing countries and debate progress towards achieving it. climate commitments.

Some observers say this could be the last and greatest opportunity to deliver on an emissions reduction agreement reached at the 2015 Paris meeting. The University of Oregon, with more than 45 years of teaching and research on the Environment, including its interdisciplinary environmental studies program, was one of 3,900 US organizations and institutions that reaffirmed their commitment to this commitment last December.

While UO faculty experts in law, geography, planning, and politics express skepticism that the procedures will lead to significant steps towards achieving this commitment, all agree that as educators their work to help shape a liveable future for all is urgent and meaningful.

“While international and national negotiations can be frustrating and slow, the teaching, research and community engagement here at UO inspires us to continue to seek solutions,” said Adell Amos, executive director of the news. UO’s environmental initiative, which she says represents higher education’s renewed commitment to tackle climate change and create a just transition to a carbon-free future. “Our students and future generations deserve nothing less than our best efforts.”

Marc Carey

Professor of Environmental Studies, Department of Geography; director of the Glacier Lab

Carey studies the human dimensions of ice and how global forces such as climate change affect people and communities. He fears that not much will come out of the meeting of governments, known as COP26.

“We don’t have a climate emergency,” he said, “as much as we have a political emergency”.

He sees resilience and adaptability in communities living near rapidly shrinking glaciers and on a global scale.

“I’m inspired by creative ways to deal with this small-scale climate crisis, whether it’s building man-made glaciers in India or, like a Peruvian farmer does, suing a German energy company whose emissions are melting a Andean glacier, ”he said. noted. “I am inspired by indigenous communities and tribal nations who – even in the face of 500 years of colonialism, racism and the recent terrible effects of climate change – are doing innovative work to adapt to increasing floods and disasters. weather, to combat food insecurity and maintain their vibrant cultures.

“And I am inspired by the young people and students who persist in their work and their studies even in the face of ecological grief and the relentless setbacks and inaction of the US government.”

Leigh johnson

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Environmental Studies Program, African Studies Program

Leigh johnsonJohnson focuses on the intersection of disaster and climate risk, vulnerability, work and finance. She said climate change exposes and exacerbates deep inequalities between people and places that are more or less able to cope with its effects.

“Poor countries need grants, not loans, to finance adaptation and emission reductions,” she said. “As rich countries try to deliver on a pledge of $ 100 billion a year in climate finance to poor countries, an alarming amount of that finance, roughly 70% in 2019, has come in the form of loans and not grants. Loans, of course, bear interest and must be repaid in foreign currency. This creates an extremely worrying risk of a climate debt trap for poor countries unable to repay their loans as climate impacts continue to worsen.

“And, the pandemic has amplified unequal negotiating positions between countries. Small poor countries could never send the coterie of negotiators and lawyers that rich countries send, and the lack of access to vaccines and budgetary constraints have made this situation much more acute. “

Craig M. Kauffman

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Political Science

Craig kauffmanThe obstacles to tackling climate change, said Kauffman, a member of the United Nations Network of Experts on Harmony with Nature, are the rejection of science and the demonization of the expertise he sees developing. in the United States and elsewhere, fueled largely by disinformation, and the lack of political will to implement solutions already available.

“What I would like delegates (to COP26) to understand is that the costs of not taking aggressive action to mitigate climate change are far greater than the costs associated with aggressively tackling climate change,” however high they are. I do not have much hope that the national governments meeting in Glasgow will agree to achieve the ambitious goals that we need.

“Personally, I think the most important actions to tackle climate change are being taken by cities, such as those switching to renewables, the decisions of organizations to divest from fossil fuel companies and other types of energy. actions taken by local governments, private organizations, and citizens’ movements that take matters into their own hands in the face of inaction by national governments.

Adrien parr

Dean of the College of Design; Professor, Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management

Adrien parrInternationally renowned environmental, political and cultural thinker and activist, author and filmmaker, Parr has served as UNESCO President on Water and Human Settlements since 2013.

For the conference to move forward, she said, “the United States must not only agree to honor its commitments in the Paris Agreement, but it must make bolder commitments and stick to them. And we need a binding international agreement. An important and very worrying point is that neither the Russian nor the Brazilian presidents will attend the conference. Russia is among the top five emitting countries in the world along with China, the United States, India and Japan. Meanwhile, Brazil is shrinking the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate, which has allowed one of the world’s largest carbon sinks to release more CO2 than it absorbs. “

Lucas silva

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Environmental Studies Program; Director, Soil Plant Atmosphere Research Laboratory

Lucas silvaSilva has been studying the effects of climate change on natural and man-made ecosystems for 15 years. Even though he sees a lot of things that concern him, he is full of hope.

“Truly innovative partnerships across different disciplines and sectors of society are emerging faster than we could have imagined a few years ago,” he said. “We need world leaders to come together to discuss how sanctions and incentives could be applied to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. However, any top-down guidance is likely to be ineffective if not supported by decentralized, bottom-up adaptive action led by communities on the ground.

“While promises made in previous meetings have not fully materialized, if governments follow through and continue to invest in public institutions, which do most of the research on climate change mitigation and adaptation,” we could potentially limit total warming to a manageable level. There is still time for us to act to transform this now undeniable climate crisis into opportunities for a more just and sustainable future. “

Marie Wood

Philip H. Knight Professor of Law; Faculty Director, Center for Environmental and Natural Resources Law

Marie WoodWood pioneered the approach called atmospheric trust litigation to hold governments around the world accountable for reducing carbon pollution in their jurisdictions. The problem with global treaties has not been a lack of solutions, she said, echoing others, but a lack of political will.

“Typically, these COP climate negotiations reflect the political pressures that leaders of various countries face at the national level from the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “All over the world, citizens and young people are suing their governments to force climate action, and these cases are winning. The US situation calls for judicial review because a simple promise by President Biden to set climate goals has no sustainability for the future – the next president could reverse his direction – and they might not even go far enough to avoid points. tipping.

“The Revolutionary Climate Case in the United States, Juliana v. United States, is again in Oregon U.S. District Court, and the Biden administration can enter settlement talks with the plaintiffs and enter into a consent order that will set out obligations. In my view, this is a necessary step to hold the government accountable to move deliberately at full speed on the decades-long path of climate recovery. “

By George Evano and Matt Cooper, University Communications


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