Individual academics from around the world have welcomed the agreement reached at the United Nations COP27 climate summit to establish a “loss and damage” fund to help developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. , and they have requested that part of the funds be allocated to universities and research centers focused on climate change research.
“I welcome the decision to establish a fund for loss and damage and make it operational in the coming period,” Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said in a November 20 video message delivered at the 27th session of the UN. UN Conference on Climate Change (COP27) that took place in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, on the Red Sea.
Guterres said the fund was “an important step towards justice” for poor countries that have done little to cause the climate crisis but are suffering its worst impacts.
“The issue of loss and damage was, for the first time, central to the COP agenda and progress in its financing is a fundamental part of the success of COP27,” according to a COP27 press release issued on November 20. .
It is likely to take at least a year, until the next climate conference of the parties in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023, to work out some of the details of how the fund will work, when it will be operational and how it will work. be financed
For academics, the creation of the fund recognizes, in part, the strength of the evidence on climate change produced by academics in developing countries.
The key role of universities in the “loss and damage” conversations
Victor Ongoma, professor of adaptation to climate change at Morocco’s Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, said News from the University World The approved fund is “an acknowledgment of the existing evidence of climate change and associated loss and damage that has been presented by many higher education institutions, as well as governments and associations in developing countries.
“Higher education institutions and universities, along with science centers, have engaged in research that provides evidence of climate change and climate change attributions that are key to shaping discussions of climate ‘loss and damage’. prioritized during COP27,” Ongoma said.
Professor Walter Leal, head of the Center for Research and Transfer, Sustainability and Climate Change Management at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, also welcomed the news of the fund, but said it was “urgent” that the allocation and the disbursement of loss and damage funds is made quickly.
“As research is essential to identify areas for action, it would be a good idea to allocate some funds to make them available to universities in developing countries, so that they can finance some projects,” Leal said. News from the University World.
For example, research efforts should be increased to address the impacts of climate change on agriculture, since improving food production is related to poverty alleviation.
“Right now, there are some sources of research funding, but the application procedures are so complex that some universities cannot access them,” Leal said.
“Some of the loss and damage funds should also go toward adjusting, repairing, or providing research infrastructure, as well as fostering student training, especially at the master’s and doctoral levels.
“It is a wise use of financial resources to direct part of the loss and damage fund to establish an observatory of climate change loss and damage in the Global South in order to monitor climate change related damages taking place in countries Developing.
“The observatory will also carry out research on ways to protect communities from climate vulnerability and provide evidence-based consulting services to decision makers in developing countries,” Leal said.
Research in biosaline agriculture
Professor Atta-ur-Rahman, winner of the UNESCO Science Prize, agreed. He said News from the University World the loss and damage fund should be used to strengthen research capacities in universities in developing countries to counter the effects of climate change on the frequency, intensity and geographic distribution of extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves, and slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and desertification.
Atta-ur-Rahman, former coordinator general of the Standing Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and former Pakistani federal minister of science and technology, suggested the establishment of centers of excellence in biosaline agriculture. to conduct research on new varieties of edible crops that are tolerant of stress and salt and that can be grown in deserts and coastal areas using seawater.
“There is no shortage of water on our planet, but it is mostly seawater. Such research will help humanity prepare against a major human disaster involving mass famines caused by accelerating desertification and climate change.
“The funds should also be used to finance research on the applications of gene editing technologies so that new varieties of wheat, rice and other edible crops can be developed with minimal use of water and under extreme temperatures,” Atta-ur-Rahman said. .
“To compete and survive, developing nations must transition to robust, technology-driven knowledge economies.
“Therefore, the fund should be used to promote education, science, technology and innovation through scholarships, the creation of research facilities in new and emerging fields of science and technology, such as artificial intelligence, genomics, nanobiotechnology, etc., and for establishing links with industry and agriculture,” said Atta-ur-Rahman.
Gender equality and climate
Dr. Birgit Schreiber, vice president of the International Association for Student Affairs and Services, said News from the University World that part of the approved fund could usefully be used to establish a unit for gender equality and climate change in universities in developing countries.
Such a unit could focus on conducting research and studies on the impact of climate change on women, as well as monitoring best practices and identifying transformative innovations and practical tools to protect against the impact of climate change, Schreiber said.
“The brunt of any crisis, as we saw in COVID-19, is disproportionately borne by women, especially in developing countries…So environmental crises also disproportionately affect women, children and other groups vulnerable.
“We must do everything possible to prevent their rights from going back even further to the previous century,” said Schreiber, who is also a fellow at the African Center for Transregional Research at Albert Ludwig University Freiburg in Germany.
Research capacity building
Salwa Thabet Mekky, professor of public administration and director of international affairs at the Future University of Egypt, said News from the University World She believed that the approved fund should be used to support institutional reforms of higher education institutions in developing countries, especially in vulnerable communities, in order to address the multifaceted causes and consequences of climate change and contribute to the development of a ” greener, more resilient and sustainable”. society”.
“Campus sustainability and curriculum development are essential strategic goals,” Mekky said. “Most importantly, the development of research capacities is one of the key drivers to develop innovative capacities to create more resilient and sustainable societies.
“Renewable energy, smart cities, technology-based solutions to reduce carbon emissions, green buildings, etc., are important research areas that require financial and technical support,” Mekky said.
In addition, universities in developing countries must follow a “value-based approach” while interacting with industry sector players, he said.
“They must identify strategic opportunities that articulate sustainability in the achievement of their corporate social responsibility [goals] and focus on implementing sustainable business incubators to contribute to the development of green industrial parks and promote sustainable local production,” added Mekky.