'It concerns all of us': UBC's COP 27 delegates discuss greenwashing, climate at UBC event

UBC hosted a webinar with its UBC students and faculty delegates currently at the 27th UN Conference of Parties (COP 27) on Tuesday.

COP is an annual summit, hosted by the United Nations since 1995, for countries to come together and discuss the most prevalent issues relating to the global climate. Although the agenda differs each year, the overarching goal is to limit the effects of climate change and slow the rising temperature of the planet.

UBC sent nine faculty and student representatives to this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, occurring from November 6 to 18. Some delegates have returned home, while others are still in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

At the webinar — which CBC’s Lisa Johnson moderated — delegates discussed issues surrounding representation, greenwashing, the role of colonialism and Canada's responsibility in cutting carbon emissions.

Dr. Simon Donner, a geography professor, said this year’s conference can be subtitled the “Implementation COP,” with countries focusing on past promises translating into real action.

“The big thing that‘s dominating a lot of conversations is the idea of loss and damage,” Donner said.

Loss and damage mainly refer to the irreversible effects of climate change on the livelihoods of people in poorer countries. With the countries contributing the least to global emissions experiencing the most extreme effects of climate change, the idea of loss and damage works to hold the biggest polluters accountable for their actions.

Gideon Berry, a master’s engineering student, expressed their disappointment with Canadian efforts towards loss and damage initiatives. Canada has pledged 5.3 billion to the Climate Finance Commitment, which Berry believes is “not sufficient” considering the prominence of Canada in the fossil fuel industry.

Abul Bashar Rahman, an economics student from Bangladesh, spoke about the conference from a personal perspective. With reports showing over 17 per cent of the nation submerged by 2050, Rahman emphasized the gap between “what the world is doing” and “how people are affected.”

The delegates also spoke about parts of the conference feeling like a “trade show” for the oil and gas industry. There are over 600 oil and gas representatives registered at the conference.

“There’s a lot of focus on the open of green jobs and infrastructure, but not a lot about the decommissioning of the oil and gas sector,” said Berry.

Dr. Vanessa Andreotti, an education professor, echoed their sentiments as she spoke to the current situation as a “commercialized and commodified nature.”

“We are trying to profit from [climate change],” she said. She believes Western culture largely lacks respect for “reciprocity and responsibility,” the core features of Indigenous knowledge.

“Indigenous knowledge is a science on its own,” she continued, acknowledging the need for Western society to abandon its “arrogance” in science and technology.

“The same systems that create the problems can not offer adequate solutions.”

The magnification of international economic dynamics at COP

After the webinar, The Ubyssey chatted further with Rahman about the importance of COP 27 as both a Bangladeshi and Canadian student.

“This is the only time people are able to voice their concerns on a global scale,” he said.

At the conference, he had the opportunity to to speak with delegates from Balochistan, Pakistan, who had never traveled abroad before. He said it was a “humbling experience” to be in the same place with people from such diverse backgrounds.

At the same time, the COP 27 attendance highlights the issue of equitable representation.

“The total number of delegates including party members and observers is 97 from Bangladesh,” said Rahman. This is a stark contrast with the hundreds of fossil fuel representatives attending. Considering the escalation of Bangladesh’s floods throughout the years, Rahman said more voices are needed to represent individuals most affected by climate change.

Speaking to the experience of attending the conference, Rahman believes that if he was a student in Bangladesh, he would not have this same opportunity. “I was only able to go to Sharm El-Sheikh because of the support I received from UBC,” he said.

As both a Bangladeshi and a UBC student, he felt “blessed and privileged” to be able to represent his thoughts globally.

“It’s not just during COP that we are concerned about these issues,” he emphasized. He sees COP as not only a week-long conference but a “continuous journey” for himself, the attendees and everyone who did not attend.

“It concerns all of us on this planet.”