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UAE universities will be offering students opportunities to take part in Cop28 through a series of workshops, conferences and presentations.
Zayed University, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Heriot-Watt University Dubai will be organising workshops, hosting technology companies and giving students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in events linked to Cop28.
Students will also be able to volunteer at the event to deepen their knowledge of climate issues and gain valuable experience.
The summit – being held from November 30 to December 12 – will take place at Expo City Dubai.
Thousands of world leaders, ministers, negotiators, eco activists and others will converge for two weeks of crunch talks aimed at developing an urgent action plan to address the climate crisis.
NYUAD will be hosting the Student Energy Summit, held from November 29 to December 1, and more than 650 young people from about 120 countries will take part.
It will also host a forum on subjects including decarbonisation and net zero on December 8.
There will also be a roundtable discussion on December 5 involving academics from the American University of Sharjah, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, NYUAD and the UAE Alliance for Climate Action, which will look at how universities in the Emirates are promoting sustainability.
Mazna Patka and Hana Shahin of Zayed University will be giving a presentation and workshop at the conference.
Their session, selected by Cop28 organisers, will help participants use what is known as appreciative inquiry to “create social and personal change related to climate change and other issues”.
Dr Patka, an associate professor at the university, said that those who attend the session, which is open to students and non-students, will all learn something beneficial.
“It’s something that we’ve done so many times with organisations and individuals,” she told The National.
“The idea of having some theory and making an experience for people is sort of second nature.”
Appreciative inquiry is described as a way of enabling change by harnessing strengths, such as those present within organisations, instead of looking to fix problems.
It has been seen as a way to boost innovation in companies, but has also been employed by non-governmental organisations.
“We wanted to make sure they can take what they learn and apply it to the real world,” Dr Shahin, an assistant professor, added.
“It’s what we can do as individuals. It’s about saying we have the ability to make an impact and we have evidence-based practices to do something.”
Excited to learn
Dr Shahin said students were “really excited” about Cop and added that climate change was “definitely a concern”, especially when it is discussed in a public arena.
“They take great pride in their community and the great things being done,” she said.
“All students are really excited and enthusiastic and learning much about the climate and the environment.”
Zayed University teaches sustainability, she added, while interdisciplinary courses have content that relates to climate change and the environment.
“It’s important that they have the education to engage with this type of topic,” she said.
Heriot-Watt University Dubai is also getting involved with Cop28, setting aside two floors of its seven-storey campus for panel discussions, workshops, networking events and more, including a clean technology showcase.
The university is also allowing those attending Cop28 to register and visit the university’s Dubai campus, with regular shuttle buses bringing in participants.
“The students who are here in Dubai will be able to attend all of the programming on a first come, first served basis,” Dame Heather McGregor, provost and vice principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, told The National.
“I also need at least 40 student volunteers each day to deal with thousands of visitors. I’ve arranged for whole classes from schools to come and visit and see all of this, to see the technology companies.”
Dame Heather said that more than 300 students had already put themselves forward as volunteers.
Among them is Muhammad Abban Fahaim, a second-year robotics, autonomous and interactive systems student.
“Volunteering not only allows me to explore ideas of green technology, but also significantly enriches my practical experience and provides a networking opportunity,” he said.
Navya Rajiv, an international business management and marketing graduate, who is also the vice-president of well-being on the university’s student council, said that volunteering enables her to play an active role in initiatives aimed at tackling climate change.
“It offers a change to connect with professionals, activists and policymakers in the environmental field, creating avenues for collaboration and continuous learning,” she said.
She added that the experience will be a valuable addition to her CV and give her a unique opportunity to expand her knowledge beyond what she gained from her course.
“Our university can also engage with local communities, raising awareness about Cop28, climate change and sustainable practices to extend the conference’s impact,” she said.