MSSI on the road to COP26 Glasgow

As COP26 kicks off, we put the spotlight on our influential and impactful research and action for a sustainable, resilient climate future.

Glasgow skyline

As the world turns its attention to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) kicking off in Glasgow this week, MSSI researchers and associates are part of the global conversation. Our interdisciplinary research across faculties and centres at the University of Melbourne is contributing to informed global discussion and negotiations on the way forward for a sustainable, climate-safe future.

Prof Don Henry AM, Melbourne Enterprise Professor of Environmentalism at MSSI, and Hon Dr Janine Felson, a Research Fellow at MSSI – who is also the Ambassador of Belize and a voice for small island states and the Caribbean in a number of multilateral fora – are in Glasgow to attend COP26 and take part in the negotiations.

Prof Don Henry has been vocal at home on how regional communities in Australia can adapt to transitions and drive sustainable change. He has outlined challenges and opportunities for Australia at the world climate talks, as well as preferred outcomes, and will chair a discussion on the topic on the sidelines of COP26 this Friday. He also appeared on the latest Climate Talks podcast from Melbourne Climate Futures (MCF) with Prof Peter Doherty and Prof Kathryn Bowen to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted COP26, and was part of a Q&A on the University of Melbourne's Pursuit alongside MCF Director Prof Jacqueline Peel speaking about Australia's position at COP26.

Dr Janine Felson has already joined pre-COP26 discussions at the United Nations Technology Day, delivering a keynote address in a session on approaches to coastal and ocean adaptation. She has also highlighted in international media the threats posed by climate change to small island nations, and the struggle for these nations to have their voices heard in global negotiations.

Prof Henry and Dr Felson were both engaged in the recent Blue Pacific to Glasgow Forum, hosted on 6 October by The Climate Reality Project - Australia and Pacific and Hon Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. The Forum provided a platform for Pacific leaders in government and civil society to make an urgent plea for ambition at COP26. Their clear messages for Australia and the world featured in The Age and the Guardian.

Here are some other ways our research and action are shaping the global conversation around COP26:

  • Climate concerns featured in an online discussion hosted last week by MSSI and involving Dr Felson, among other experts, on the latest developments for a post-2020 biodiversity framework, which calls for greater involvement of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • Prof Sarah Bell, City of Melbourne Chair in Urban Resilience and Innovation, chaired a panel discussion at the recent Innovate4Cities conference on challenges and opportunities for climate resilience in the cities of Oceania, drawing on examples from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Prof Bell and Research Fellow Dr Melanie Lowe, in collaboration with the Melbourne Centre for Cities and the City of Melbourne, are preparing a new Issues Paper and Briefing Paper on urban resilience to inform local government approaches in Australia and around the world. Registration is now open for an online launch and discussion on 29 November, with more details to follow.
  • Ciaran McCormack, Manager at The Climate Reality Project – Australia and Pacific, recently published a piece outlining the needed outcomes at COP26.
  • The challenge of facing the climate crisis with hope and courage was addressed in a book recently released by MSSI associate Prof John Wiseman, consulting a broad range of voices including climate scientists and activists; philosophers and social theorists; Indigenous cultures and ways of life; faith-based and spiritual traditions; artists and writers.