Wikimedia Commons

Several of the University’s students, faculty and staff are slated to take part in COP26, an annual United Nations climate conference, with the goal of protecting the Earth’s delicate natural systems.

The conference will see over 20 Yale students supporting a variety of organizations and government delegations, along with many University faculty and staff who will be participating in a number of events, including panels and seminars. COP26 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, and draw an expected 20,000 attendees. The list of attendees contains several activists, diplomats and heads of state, including President Joe Biden. 

“I really believe in our potential to solve this crisis,” said Kyle Lemle ENV ’22. ”My whole life is committed to healing our relationship with the Earth and stopping climate disaster by realizing and investing in the power of nature to help us return to the more ecological, sustainable and regenerative way of life.”

Lemle will attend the conference with The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit. He has been working with The Conservancy since the spring, having previously worked on evaluating natural climate solutions domestically with an ESG consulting firm and now internationally. 

At the conference, Lemle will track negotiations and agreements, both formal and informal, surrounding oceans and climate.

“I have been to two UN climate talks before,” Lemle said. “It’s a very challenging and inspiring space all at the same time. There are world leaders and amazing activists. There are environmental professionals from all over the world that come. It is important to put the pressure on national governments to make as much of an ambitious contribution to climate policy as possible.”

Daniel C. Esty ’86, professor of environmental law and policy at the School of the Environment and Yale Law School and co-author of the book “Values at Work: Sustainable Investing and ESG Reporting,” will be a part of several programs throughout the conference. 

Esty has attended these conferences since 1992 and was a part of the negotiations for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“I will be talking about enhanced flow of funds to climate change action in one of these programs,” Esty said. “I believe that is a critical issue if the global effort to really mobilize and begin the transformative change to a clean energy future is to go forward.”

Esty worked as the commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for nearly three years from 2011-14. In his role, he established a “Green Bank,” a public financial institution designed to accelerate the transition to clean energy. His work won a prize from Harvard and sparked the Green Bank movement.

At the moment, there are 21 Green Banks across the United States. They have helped to facilitate private investment in clean energy that would have otherwise struggled with acquiring funding. 

“That’s the sort of thing that needs to be done all over the world,” Esty said.

The conference is focused on policy, along with education and advocacy. It is divided into a “Blue Zone,” for business and policy negotiation, and a “Green Zone,” for more public facing and education based events. Arunima Sircar’s ENV ’22 work rests mainly in the Blue Zone.

“I am excited to see all of the events I have been planning since May actually happen,” Sircar told the News. “A lot of them have high level speakers and individuals that are coming, and I think it will be great to meet them and talk to them.” 

Over the summer, Sircar worked with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, or C2ES, to help plan and organize a private business roundtable for business leaders, domestic diplomats and international policy advisors. C2ES plans on holding more public events as well.

Paul Anastas, professor in the practice of chemistry for the environment at the Yale School of Environment, will also participate at one of the Green Zone public events. Anastas, the winner of the 2021 Volvo Environment Prize, will participate in a discussion panel with several School of Environment students and Martin Lundstedt, CEO of Volvo Group.

“I hope to communicate that through innovation we are able to address the grand challenges of climate change,” Anastas said. “Most folks don’t seem to know what’s possible today.”

Anastas is the head of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at the University, which is focused on designing sustainable products and processes. He highlighted the potential of green chemistry to address global climate change. Anastas’ personal goal is to raise further awareness of green chemistry.  

According to Cameron Ramey ENV ’22, COP26 is a particularly important conference since policymakers hope to limit the rise of global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a limit we are approaching relativity rapidly. She claims to be a “pragmatic optimist,” hoping to work to improve climate policy.

Ramey will be attending the conference supporting the Alliance of Small Island States.

“It is so exciting to be in that space where you can see world leaders and where everyone in the climate change space is coming together to really hammer out the solutions we need to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ramey said.

Global temperatures have increased by an average of 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade since 1981. 

DANTE MOTLEY
Dante Motley covers Black communities at Yale and in New Haven. He is also an Associate Editor for the YDN Magazine and works on "The Yalie" podcast. He is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in anthropology.