As the United Arab Emirates prepares to host the United Nations’ 2023 Climate Change Conference (COP28) this fall, Emirati universities are sharpening their focus on various research and academic initiatives in line with the global event.
The summit, formally known as the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be held November 30 to December 12 in Dubai. The conference follows last year’s COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, which ended with a historic decision to establish a “loss and damage fund” to compensate nations suffering from the impact climate change.
Ahmed Murad, associate provost for research at the United Arab Emirates University, said that Emirati universities and academic institutions are greatly interested in climate-change issues and COP28, and are preparing a “clear agenda to enhance their participation in the international event.”
“Researchers, faculty members, and university students published 321 research papers on climate change between 2017 and 2023.”Ahmed Murad, associate provost for research at the United Arab Emirates University.
“The United Arab Emirates University is working on initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of finding solutions to climate-change challenges through academic programmes, scientific research, and community activities,” Murad told Al-Fanar Media. “Researchers, faculty members, and university students published 321 research papers on climate change between 2017 and 2023.”
Murad mentioned several initiatives the university has undertaken to keep pace with the U.A.E.’s national agenda and to help achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. It launched a master’s degree in environmental sciences and sustainability in 1994, and its Sustainable Development Goals Research Programme currently supports 468 students in 104 research projects related to sustainable development, he said. “These include research on clean water and sanitation, quality education, economic growth, and life on earth.”
Murad said the university will launch a new course on sustainable development goals research, focusing on climate action, in September. Moreover, university students will present the results of 56 studies on raising awareness of behaviours that enhance environmental sustainability and resources in a special forum that will be organised later this year.
“Promoting environmental sustainability is a shared societal responsibility,” he said. “We, as members of the U.A.E. society, must invest in COP28 by supporting various initiatives. This international conference is an opportunity for us as Emiratis to highlight the acquired environmental legacy.”
Murad believes that young people’s knowledge of climate-change challenges is a basic necessity to ensure a sustainable future, “so that they can contribute through knowledge, science, and research to finding scientific solutions to these challenges.”
Council for Sustainable Development Goals
Alya Anter, an assistant professor at Ajman University’s College of Mass Communication, said universities in the Emirates have been preparing for COP28 for a long time. Her university, for example, “stopped using paper to preserve the environment,” she said.
Anter also remembered the U.A.E.’s declaration of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability. “Ajman University hosted a forum to discuss sustainability issues, in cooperation with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment,” she said. “That was followed by the formation of the university’s Sustainable Development Goals Council, with the participation of students, alumni, academics, experts, and government officials.”
“This council aims to create real change, in line with the agenda of the COP28 Conference,” Anter said. “This will be an opportunity for young people to integrate with environmental leaders and participate in decision-making.”
On climate-change research, Anter said: “All our university academic courses focus, in their applied aspect, on sustainability and climate change. Moreover, media-related majors result in many student graduation projects that are concerned with creating media campaigns or documentaries to raise awareness of climate-change issues and sustainability behaviours.”
Anter believes that youth are “the biggest engine of any change and development” and are “more connected to new technology.”
“All our university courses focus, in their practical aspect, on sustainability and climate change.”Alya Anter, an assistant professor at Ajman University’s College of Mass Communication.
“Ensuring building their awareness means ensuring the awareness of future generations,” she said. “It is important to educate the younger generations about climate change issues and sustainable practices, through activities, forums, conferences, and student projects, in order to come up with innovative, sustainable solutions.”
University Climate Network
Mohamed Rashad, head of the mass communications department at Khawarizmi International College, said that a dozen Emirati universities had joined a University Climate Network to encouragage young people’s participation in COP28.
“Knowledge and awareness are the most important ways to address this global problem, which requires everyone’s concerted efforts to stop the harm inflicted on the entire world.”Mohamed Rashad, head of the mass communications department at Khawarizmi International College.
Rashad noted that universities have also started various student initiatives, such as calling for student research on climate change and motivating students to participate in community initiatives on sustainable development.
“All of these measures stimulate youth involvement and push them to lead climate action,” he said. “Knowledge and awareness are the most important ways to address this global problem, which requires everyone’s concerted efforts to stop the harm inflicted on the entire world.”
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