UConn @ COP 27: The Search for Solutions to the Climate Crisis

This month, UConn sent 14 students to the 27th United Nations Climate Conference (COP) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The Conference of the Parties is an opportunity for global climate experts, activists and leaders to meet and discuss measures needed to act in response to the climate crisis. Fellows of UConn COP27 were asked to write about their initial impressions of this global event. To read excerpts from a selection of those blogs, see below. The full list can be found on the website of the UConn Institute’s Office of the Environment for Sustainability.

Inclusivity for LGBTQ+ at COP27

Samuel Cukork 23 (CLAS)

COP27 was one of the most overwhelming and formative experiences of my life so far. Meeting some of the most influential activists, community organizers, and politicians has been humbling and rewarding.

However, I did notice a distinct lack of queer representation in COP27. Many (but not all) of the paintings show diversity in gender, race, and background, but remarkably, there is no discussion of the LGBTQ people present in these spaces. I come from a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies background, so I feel very aware of how LGBTQ people occupy spaces and feel comfortable expressing themselves in these spaces. To say I’m frustrated is a bit of an understatement. There is so much wisdom here at COP in the variety of episodes and events that tells us that diversity strengthens humanity and climate resilience as a whole. So, seeing a whole group of people being ignored and hidden from view feels disenfranchised.

This is when I feel grateful to be a UConn student. This group of undergraduates and alumni makes me feel hopeful as we start each day with stimulating and engaging “breakfast talks” where we discuss our thoughts and feelings about the conference. All the colleagues come from a variety of backgrounds and throughout the day we all stroll through different boards and learn a plethora of knowledge. During my morning “Breakfast Club,” I find that the views expand my knowledge of COP27 and give me greater agency for extracting every ounce of the conference. I’m excited for Solutions Day tomorrow. Climate activism can be overwhelming and disheartening, so it is important to embrace these solutions and acknowledge that any change is positive change.

We can’t hold our breath on financing

Penn North MBA 23

My experience at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh has been a whirlwind so far, often overwhelming at times in its scale and scope. The large numbers of people who have traveled from every corner of the earth to share their stories of how their livelihoods have been affected by climate change add more gravitas, realism and clarity to the situation than ever before. On the flight back from conference tonight, I sat next to a woman from the party delegation representing the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu who told me about the stark effects of climate change and associated sea level rise that has seeped salt water into their country’s water supplies, and forced a school near The coast is being abandoned, agricultural productivity is reduced, coral reefs and fisheries are deteriorating. She told me that many other small Pacific island nations face similar challenges that are only set to get worse.

These kinds of stories are the ones I’ve heard over and over again from voices around the world being shared here at COP27 in the three days we’ve been here so far. At the same time, seeing so many countries and citizens come together in a unified endeavor to confront a common threat, even in the midst of global conflict and economic uncertainty, gives me hope for the future.

These examples, among the many I encounter here, provide points that the global financial system is continuing to transform in a massive way to direct investment flows toward the development of decarbonized economies. However, it seems that many are still holding their breath here, as the main point of discussion in the COP27 negotiations is the creation of a global financing facility for loss and damage due to climate impacts to underdeveloped countries that is still on the table.

Challenging my views on climate action and what climate solutions look like

Jocelyn Fung 23 (ENG)

Intellectually, I try to absorb as much information as possible about everything that interests me or that I know nothing about. It was an emotional rollercoaster that went from being overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of climate change, to realizing that the heartbreak of destroying life on our planet is why we are drawn here (Professor Phoebe Godfrey said it best), to pondering our role in climate action, and gaining hope for our future from all Technologies, knowledge, innovations, art, poetry and emotions showcased at the conference.

For the first couple of days, I was intrigued by all the new technologies, innovations, and financial partnerships offered to mitigate and adapt to climate change. On the third day, however, I looked at all the information and the narratives provided in a more critical light. I reminded myself to be more critical of the solutions and data presented to me, who is in the room and who is left out, who is represented, and the interests behind the narratives being pushed forward. From attending Indigenous committees and speaking to grassroots climate justice activists, I learned about the wrong solutions and thought more critically about how many of the initiatives discussed at COP27 perpetuate green capitalism and reinforce the racist, sexist, imperialist and elitist structures that destroyed our beautiful planet in the first place. It has been said that if we continue to operate in our existing systems, the root of the problem remains unresolved. I also learned about the importance of ancestral knowledge and indigenous perspectives as climate solutions, and how they are largely ignored in mainstream discussions.

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