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A Visit to the UN Climate Change Summit

Justin Jackson one of 10 Selected to Attend UN Climate Summit in Lima, Peru

COP20_UNFCCC

According to US government scientists, 2014 was the warmest year on record, with global temperatures climbing 0.68 C above the long-term average. Last year intense heat blanketed Alaska, California, Arizona and Nevada, all of which set new temperature records, as did several European countries. Climate change affects us all, but has a unique impact on Urban Systems practitioners, engineers and planners as they work to create and sustain healthy, vibrant communities.

Climate change affects us all, but has a unique impact on Urban Systems practitioners, engineers and planners as they work to create and sustain healthy, vibrant communities.

COP20_JustinJackson_Delegates
Justin and fellow COP20 delegates
Justin Jackson, a recent Thomspon Rivers University grad and past president of the local chapter of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA), recently joined Urban Systems Kamloops office to further his work in environmental sciences. He has a particular interest in climate change and was thrilled when he was one of 10 individuals selected by IFSA worldwide to attend the internationally lauded 10-day UN Climate Change Summit in Lima, Peru this past December.

The conference (called UNFCCC or United Nations Foundation Convention on Climate Change) is in its twentieth year was attended by over 15,000 different people from 194 countries. World leaders came to boost collaborative climate solutions, share ideas and ultimately negotiate new climate agreements (in the event’s third year, the Kyoto Protocol was signed).

2014’s two week meeting in Lima was the continuation of a multi-year process that will culminate in 2015 in Paris, where it is expected that an historic agreement requiring all nations to pitch in to reduce emissions will be signed. This radical global agreement is predicted to include penalties and payouts and will aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C over what they were in pre-industrial times.

“I have the mindset that it’s critical to stay abreast of climate change information in order to stay ahead of the curve.” says Justin. “Emerging climate data—everything from different rain events to temperature variations—these are things we need to know about, and they also tie heavily into the work we’re doing at Urban. Climate change influences the systems, policies and master plans we create and it’s something our clients care about. Listening to world leaders and scientists talk about their latest research and what’s changing, how food is being grown, new energy sources, the economics behind it all—it was an incredible opportunity.”

A much discussed theme at the summit was that to create real solutions, we must stop working in silos and recognize that climate change isn’t simply the problem of particular countries, it’s something that affects all humanity. There was considerable talk about a shift from single-minded thinking to “landscape” thinking, where everyone is brought together and all components of our global system are considered. Being able to work across these boundaries and between disciplines will allow for an overall smother and more functional way for professionals and individuals to work in the future.

“One of the big takeaways is that we are all connected,” says Justin. “This isn’t just a country thing, it’s about everyone; it’s about people. We need to stop thinking small and realize that there are billons of people across the planet. What happens in Kamloops or Vancouver might not be thought of on a large scale, but in fact what we do here does have an impact on, for example, the Solomon Islands or even herders on the plains of Mongolia. One change in one place doesn’t seem like a lot but it is one change on the globe and that matters.”

“What happens in Kamloops or Vancouver might not be thought of on a large scale, but in fact what we do here does have an impact on, for example, the Solomon Islands or even herders on the plains of Mongolia.”

Justin says he had a sense that attendees showed overwhelming support for change. “I was almost taken aback at first to see everyone so exited, happy and on the same page. It made me realize that change actually isn’t that hard. It’s already happening, even if people don’t realize it.”

On his three-week trip, Justin had some personal adventures as well. Whether he was accidentally stealing a Frisbee from Mr. Heru Prasetyo, Head of the Indonesian National REDD+ Agency, (when he was approached and politely asked to return it, they shared a laugh and a chat), or visiting Machu Pichu after the conference and being airlifted back to sea level after succumbing to altitude sickness, there was never a dull moment.

“Lima is an incredible city and the trip was a once in a lifetime adventure. Next year it would be incredible to go back to COP21, that’s being held in Paris if I have the opportunity. That conference will be even bigger and more historic. It’s exciting to watch the change unfold.”

Justin will also be touring around various Urban Systems offices over the next few weeks to give presentations on his learnings.

Want to know what its like to be at COP20? You can get an insight by watching this UNFCCC video diary:
 

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A Visit to the UN Climate Change Summit PDF

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