Apr 15th, 2019, 09:57 AM

AUP Hosts First Climate Change Conference

By Zakiyyah Job
Stressing the Importance of Climate Change/ Credit: Zakiyyah Job
Speaker engaged in Discussion. Image Credits: Zakiyyah Job
Climate change conference shows AUP students how they can make a difference in the world.

The American University of Paris hosted its first-ever series of climate change conferences, spanning from Friday, March 29, to Sunday, March 31. The weekend-long event gathered together 130 students from a wide set of interdisciplinary backgrounds to brainstorm and tackle many questions surrounding human impact on the environment. These issues included environmental equity, the problem of environmental refugees, and climate change engagement.

Some of the speakers and lobbyists for Climate Change, including Professor Elena Berg (bottom right) and Professor Claudio Piani (top right). Image Credits: Zakiyyah Job

Each day was divided into two parts, with each day addressing a particular theme. The first day was devoted to environmental risk and resilience, the second focused on investing in shared responsibility, and the third day was intergenerational equity. The conference kicked off in the Amex, with a brief hour of socializing over coffee, tea, and croissants. In the spirit of being ecologically conscious, the attendees were urged to bring their own mugs and water bottles in an effort to cut down on the waste from paper cups.

After the intermingling between students and faculty, the conversation moved to the first floor of Combes, where students and faculty alike assembled to listen and pose questions to the experienced speakers, discussing environmental matters. The speakers were composed of qualified environmental NGO experts from diverse backgrounds such as sustainable investment experts, climate lobbyists, and carbon footprint consultants.

Notable speakers included: 

Claudio Pianni: Climate change professor at AUP, member of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Elena Berg: Evolutionary biology professor at AUP.

 Joe Robertson: Citizens Climate Lobby, event co-organizer.

 Pedro Faria: Senior strategist For Carbon Disclosure Project.

Ingrid Strange: Founder of Chair Partnership for Change.

Thina Saltvedt: Director of Sustainable Finance in Nordea.

Morgane Ollier: Vice President of CliMates NGO.

Gina Torrey: former AUP graduate and senior advisor of Nobel Peace Prize Global Programmes and event co-organizer.

Each of the speeches highlighted the importance of why environmental change should be at the forefront of everyone's agenda and knowledge. Examples of these speeches included one given by Claudio Pianni, called, "The Scientific Basis of Climate Change", which talks about how to keep the global rise in temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid irreparable damage to the Planet. Similarly, Gina Torrey, a former AUP student and co-organizer for the event, discussed how to mobilize climate-focused youth who are ready to make a difference in their world.


Students and professors engaged in a discussion about the current climate issues. Image Credits: Zakiyyah Job

Students Shine in AUP Conference

AUP students dominated the second half of the conference by participating in research, coming up with solutions, and typing into fine print some proposals that they felt would address climate change issues such as proposing a universal carbon tax on businesses. On the final day of the conference, a roundtable consisting of only students assembled to give their input on what had learned, what steps they can take going forward in their community, how to tackle climate issues, and even what AUP can do to promote green initiatives on campus.

When asked about her opinion of the conference, Jasmine John, an Environmental Studies major, said, "It was interesting because it's something I'm passionate about, so it was great to see other students there, with majors like History and Film, who offered different perspectives on issues. It was cool bringing different perspectives to the table."

Students addressing current problems with the environment. Image Credits: Zakiyyah Job

On the subject of youth engagement in combating negative effects of Climate change,  speaker Joe Robertson said, "Where there is a will there's a way, and what this requires is a will to act...Climate science tells us that we can do this so long as there is a will to act." 

The Conference aimed to integrate students into the forefront of these issues pertaining to the environment, how to create an "environmental culture" for everyone to partake in, and how everyday people can invest in the green economy. It appeared that towards the end of the event, students took a bigger role in the conferences. Their young and vibrant voices added a fresh perspective to issues discussed by the guest speakers. 

For many, the problem of climate change is not black and white, there are multiple hypotheses and theories, and disagreement may arise on the topic of how people should proceed in addressing the issue. Nevertheless, the American University of Paris hosted an intellectual forum for individuals to meet experts in the field and to debate these theories.