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Introducing York’s UNFCCC delegates

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It’s that time of year again: the annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year, UNFCCC COP 18, is being held at Doha, Qatar, and meetings began yesterday, Monday, November 26th. This year, York’s delegation is made up of professors from quite different disciplines: Professor Muhammad Yousaf (Chemistry – at left) and Professor Idil Boran (Philosophy – below right). Sadly, Professor Ian Garrett from the Department of Theatre, who received accreditation as part of the delegation, was unable to attend the COP in person, but plans to blog about it from afar.

Professor Boran is carrying out SSHRC-funded research which re-examines climate change policy, with a special focus on the challenges for decision-making, both at the individual and the societal level. She is interested in understanding the extent to which recent research in the social sciences that pertains to the effect of social and cognitive factors on

our decision-making processes can help to develop new approaches to climate change policy. Professor Boran seeks to articulate the implications of this research for international debates and negotiations toward a global agreement.

Her participation at COP18, will, she hopes, allow her to assess whether the strategies and arguments used in international debates are compatible or incompatible with the latest social scientific developments, and whether they can mutually learn from one another. In light of these observations, she will be able to draw implications both for theory and policy practice. She will set targets, for her own research, on how to analyze the new scholarly advances on decision-making on climate change policy, in light of insights from actual decision-making and negotiation processes. This in turn can potentially contribute to a more refined theoretical analysis and help bridge the gap between theory and practice in scholarly research.

Although Professor Yousaf is newly arrived at York’s Chemistry Department (in 2011), which he chairs, from the Chemistry Department at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, he is no stranger to the campus. He is a York alumnus, having graduated with a Chemistry and Biology B.Sc. degree in 1994!

Professor Yousaf has wide-ranging research interests that span from chemistry to biology, and he also has an interest in understanding how science informs policy. He will be bringing his science-perspective to the COP, as he seeks to understand exactly how the science of climate change is regarded by the policy makers, and politicians.

We wish Professors Boran and Yousaf all the best in Doha. They will be sending updates and mini-blogs as time permits. Professor Ian Garrett (at left), who attended COP 15, is a veteran blogger and co-founder of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. He is the recently arrived Professor of Sustainability and Design in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and he will be casting his critical artist’s eye on the Doha meetings, from Toronto.

This is the fourth delegation that York University is sending to the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, since 2009, when we applied for, and received Civil Society Observer Status for York University in time for COP 15 in Copenhagen. Past York delegations have included staff, students and faculty from areas as diverse as Political Science, Nursing, and the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Outcomes from delegates have included experiences that informed a book, Climate Change – Who’s Carrying the Burden, edited by Professor Anders Sandberg and his son, Tor, and blogs by Jacquie Medalye, as well as extensive national and international networking.

Dawn R. Bazely

York delegates at Doha

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Professor Babatunde Ajayi (School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, Nigeria)) and Mr. Isaiah Owolabi (Project HACEY, Nigeria), York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.

Professor Babatunde Ajayi (School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, Nigeria)) and Mr. Isaiah Owolabi (Project HACEY, Nigeria), York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.


Over the past years, the School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology (SAAT), like every other school or faculty in Nigerian Universities, focused essentially on teaching and research (basic and applied). It determined its teaching and research agenda within the framework provided by the National Universities Commission, the main regulatory body, and the perceived needs of the society. The scope of this teaching and research agenda has been severally limited by the relatively dwindling government

funding for the universities. This has led to most teaching and research facilities (laboratories, lecture rooms, libraries, office accommodation, communication and information equipment. etc) becoming obsolete, and inadequate to satisfy the aspiration of the school to meet the challenges of teaching and research in Nigerian Agriculture in the 21st century. In order to be at the cutting edge of agriculture and agricultural technology and impact positively and significantly on Nigeria’s rural, agricultural and agro-industrial landscape, the school has accepted a paradigm shift towards “the town and gown”. In this new paradigm, SAAT will not only teach and research, but will also render services that can transform the Nigerian socioeconomic and technological landscape. The services will be rendered to its stakeholders within the university and in larger Nigerian society.

The implication of the new paradigm is that SAAT’s work programme agenda will be needs driven Teaching and research will become more tailored to needs of the society than were previously case while SAAT will devote a substantial proportion of its resources and expertise to rendering services to its stakeholders within the larger Nigerian society. A further implication of the new paradigm is that the school will be more involved in the activities of the larger Nigeria society, by rendering services and soliciting for support in terms of collaboration, patronage, grants and endowment.

Akure is NE of Lagos, about a third of the way to Abuja.”

Introducing York University’s other COP 18 Delegates

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View Doha UNFCCC COP 18 in a larger map

In addition to our York University professors, who are at the UNFCCC in Doha (see map above, and skyline at right), two members of Project HACEY, a capacity-building NGO working in the health and sustainability sectors, were able to be accredited through York, as NGO Observers at the UNFCCC COP 18. We will have more about our Project HACEY colleagues in a future post. Project HACEY is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Dawn Bazely

Greetings from Doha

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    A message from Professor Idil Boran, delegate from York University, attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 18.

“Greetings from Doha.  I want to begin by saying that the conference has been incredibly informative.  I went to some impressive panels and met very interesting people.

The country negotiations are, as you know, going slowly and the expectations are modest.

The side events, panels, and initiatives are absolutely fascinating.  As the negotiations are going slowly, there is an impressive effort at figuring out alternative pathways for attending to the issue of climate change.  The dominant idea at Doha 2012 is the need to think in innovative ways on how the issue can be dealt with.  I also found that there is a heavy focus on instruments other than traditional policy approaches.  For example, the idea of “innovative and green financing” is central to the discussions.  So is the idea of considering Development Banks as instruments that could facilitate climate financing, transfer of green technology, and green development.

Yesterday, I went to a fascinating panel on women and climate change, where the idea of making climate instruments gender sensitive was advanced.

I hope to give a full account of all my observations on my return.  I haven’t had too much time writing, because I am trying to maximize my observations and have been focused on absorbing new insights as much as possible”

With the final stages of COP17 getting underway at Durban the IRIS team were curious to see exactly what the York  U community thought about climate justice. Exactly what kinds of promises would they like their governments to make at Durban? And what’s standing in our way for a more sustainable society?

To find out, the IRIS team set up a table at York U for November the week of the 21st to chat with anyone willing to share their views on climate change. We asked strangers to write down their ideas onto a large sheet of paper so others could maybe build off their thoughts and develop a mind map for sustainability. There really was no telling what the York population would think.

One reoccurring theme articulated by the students was the concern for endangered species; specifically polar bears. I suspect the latest Coca-Cola campaign had some role to play in bringing this concern to the forefront of our society. While there had always been an awareness of this issue, it was fascinating to see the scope to which ideas circulate and percolate through our media outlets.

Of course, Climate justice entails so much more than polar bears and the York U community certainly did not lack the imagination to show this.

By the third day of tabling I struck up a conversation with a student who when asked about climate justice, told me that her interests were really more centred on economic issues. The anonymous student then turned around and walked to the library. It was too bad I couldn’t have chatted with her longer. It would of allowed me to share at least some of the points jotted down on our mind maps. One of my favourite constructions included the connection of global warming to climate justice which was followed by a relationship to sinking cities, refugees and unemployment.  This message resonates deeply with a large number of York members, who underlined economic and social problems as being inherently linked to global climate change. This was also emphasized in conversation with Eric Miller; a Professor of Environmental Economics at York. He stopped to chat with IRIS later on that day to note the dangers in believing that one can dichotomize the relationship between the planet and trade. To do so, is to forget that our material base of production relies on the use of natural resources.

This point was further expressed on our mind maps as students and faculty members highlighted the finite amount of resources available on our planet. This point not only challenges our current trade principles for being environmentally myopic but also raises the question: Is this the way we want to organize production? Is this the way we want to organize societies?

For the few students I engaged with who worried that students were simply apathetic on the issue, my only wish is that they had the moment to meet with some of the faces that built our maps and the IRIS team tabling behind them. When I tabled with IRIS volunteers like Ewa Moodlinsk, Alex Todd, Leandra Aguiar and Michelle Alexandra, I was overwhelmed by their passion in engaging with anyone who could spare the moment to discuss climate change, COP17 and all the actions we can take to develop a more sustainable future.

The mind map was a testimony of the York community’s concern for climate justice. Many of the illustrations on the map encouraged personal actions like going vegan, using reusable bottles and leaving the car at home. Other statements called for governments to hold corporate actors accountable for their crimes on the planet and to shift investment away from things like military and tar sands towards the development of solar and wind energy in Canada.

Another thought that was imprinted onto the mind map was Awareness. One of the mind map participant who underlined this thought, explained to me that awareness involves more than a list of facts on climate change. More than that, she believed that our governments and media have a duty to better package the sustainable alternatives we have in our lives. I had to say that I agreed with this point. From conversation with students, very few were aware about when COP17 took place and even fewer students were aware of its existence.

The York community is filled with passionate minds who want to build a world that doesn’t compromise the lives of future generations. What’s left is a need to foster this spirit with a type of leadership that doesn’t shift environmental responsibility onto developing nations. Canada needs a government who will encourage sustainability and discipline renegades on the environment. Maybe Coca-Cola can cram that onto their next can.