A Concordia student at COP25: ‘International aspirations clashed with domestic political will’

Undergrad Aiden Cyr traveled to Madrid to talk climate change with experts from around the world
December 19, 2019
By Aiden Cyr


The UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25) took place earlier this month in Madrid, Spain. I was there for two weeks, learning about international climate negotiations where the stakes are high and the impact is immense.

Being thrown into the COP space was an incredible experiential learning opportunity. I’m currently studying political science and community, public affairs and policy studies and I was able to see all of these in action. The experience made the readings and lectures from my courses come alive in a completely different way.

Experts shared the latest revelations in science, and climate advocates presented solutions they had found in their communities.

In 2015, The Paris Agreement was able to commit every country in the world to a set of rules and responsibilities concerning climate change. Essentially, they agreed that climate change is a problem concerning the entire world and that something should be done about it. However, each country has a different definition about what that something looks like.

They did agree that keeping the increase in the earth’s average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius was a realistic goal.

This target would not save the world as we know it, but it would mean that mass extinction would be curbed, a global climate migration crisis could be largely averted, etc. This goal was agreed upon to bring all (except the US*) countries to the table to discuss and show that an international body of countries are committed to action.

COP25 in particular focused on Article 6 which focuses on the role of international carbon markets and the trading of carbon credits amongst countries.

Participating in this conference made me appreciate the privilege I have in studying at Concordia. At COP, I met individuals who had no professors to teach them about policy or international relations. Instead, they had to teach themselves to engage in the space on subjects that directly impacted people in their home communities.

For these people, learning English and the language of international climate policy simultaneously to defend the rights of their people back home was a daunting reality. That experience is far too common and I realized that support for climate and policy education in communities in and outside Canada needs to be increased.

Some of the highlights of my trip included the ability to speak at the Blue Leaders event in the presence of environment ministers and famous marine biologist Sylvia Earle. I spoke about my experience with Students on Ice and how an Ottawa-raised city kid came to care and advocate for ocean protection.

In particular, I spoke about why Canada should fully embrace the 30by30 initiative, the full protection of 30% of the world’s oceans/surface area by the year 2030.

Being around policy and scientific experts in action for two-weeks was an amazing learning experience and a truly humbling one. My classes in international relations, policy studies and public administration definitely helped me get up to speed on the current state of negotiations.

For me, one of the best aspects of the trip was hearing from experts that nothing but the experience itself can truly prepare you for the hectic, exhilarating and overwhelming space that is COP.

This realization helped make the learning fun and led me to understand that all experts had to start somewhere.

I traveled to COP25 as part of the Climate Action Cohort, a partnership between Students on Ice and Youth Climate Lab and supported by the Lawson Foundation.

Learn more about the School of Community and Public Affairs.


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