University of Reading: Students Get Unique COP26 Opportunity Through Remote Engagement Partnership

Students unable to travel to Glasgow are still getting the COP26 experience thanks to a partnership between the Walker Institute and the SCENARIO doctoral centre.

The COP Climate Action Studio (COPCAS) enables doctoral and postgraduate students to remotely participate in the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties in real time. They are able to conduct interviews with delegates, critically engage with all aspects of climate change research through access to online sessions and exhibits, and share research with fellow students.

COPCAS is a partnership between the Walker Institute, the University of Reading’s interdisciplinary climate research institute focused on helping countries around the world to build resilience to climate change, and the SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnership, which provides environmental science training to doctoral students and postgraduates at Reading.

Professor Rosalind Cornforth, Director of the Walker Institute, said: “This is the fifth COP that the Walker Academy’s Climate Action Studio has run. It continues to give students a unique opportunity to engage with the conference, explore how their own research can support decision-making, and build their ‘climate to policy and impact’ literacy.

“Since the last COP in Madrid in 2019, the world has seen unprecedented changes brought about by Covid-19. As a consequence, the importance of opportunities to engage remotely with policy making and practice, discussion and debate is recognised all the more.

“Our students, who will be the next generation leaders in interdisciplinary climate research and decision-making, will build vital new skills and experiences by taking part in COP26 through the COP Climate Action Studio.”

“COPCAS gives us the opportunity to meet and interview people who are involved with climate policy, research, and activism from around the world” –

COPCAS is enabling doctoral students to virtually immerse themselves in COP26 in Glasgow – the most significant event in the climate policy calendar.

During the COP period, students work in small groups to attend different sessions remotely, as well as writing blogs about their thoughts and experiences. Throughout the process, the students are supported by all members of the Walker team in their critical engagement and written outputs.

COPCAS facilitates the development of key skills surrounding interdisciplinary working, and provides direct experience of how researchers can successfully engage with other stakeholders. Participation provides students with exposure to the latest ideas in policy and practice, giving them insight into how research can be translated into meaningful action and transformational policy.

Gwyneth Matthews, a PhD student at the Department of Meteorology who is researching Multi-model data assimilation techniques for flood forecasting, said: “I’m honoured to be attending the Blue Zone at COP26 in Glasgow as part of the COPCAS scheme run by the Walker Institute.

“I took part in COPCAS two years ago for COP25 and the experience and the people were inspiring. It can be very easy to forget that climate change isn’t just numbers and charts, and that communities are already being impacted by climate change.

“COPCAS gives us the opportunity to meet and interview people who are involved with climate policy, research, and activism from around the world. I’m very excited to see the outcome of COP26 as countries have and will be declaring their updated Nationally Determined Contributions which will determine how far we go to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

A number of University of Reading researchers are attending COP26 to present in person, or participating virtually in exhibitions and stands. A group of PhD students who are part of the SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnership are also visiting the Green Zone.

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