In Glasgow this November, one message will take centre stage at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26): to safeguard our planet, we must work together across borders, industries, and academic disciplines.
Around the world, universities and the researchers within them play an essential role in the success of our collective climate agenda. They produce the rigorous evidence needed to inform solutions and drive innovation, while their civic engagements have created change around the world.
However, there remain persistent gaps between academia and the wider policy environment - and between local expertise and global dialogues - that must be overcome, if we are to ensure that climate responses are inclusive and impactful.
26 researchers for COP26
To accelerate knowledge transfer across the Commonwealth, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the British Council have partnered to establish the Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort, supporting 26 rising-star researchers from 16 countries to bring their expertise to a global stage.
Joining forces under a shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the ACU-British Council partnership will support the talented young researchers to advocate on behalf of local concerns and deliver peer-led research-to-action projects responding to the needs of climate-vulnerable communities.
In the run up to COP26, this unique cohort will also access expert-led training to build their skills in leadership, knowledge exchange, and policy influence – and work with experts to identify opportunities to engage with issues related to climate and environment.
Dr Joanna Newman, MBE FRSA, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU said: ‘With the UK-chaired COP26 over the horizon, we’re proud to be supporting a new generation of climate research leaders -- who will be critical allies for governments to deliver on their climate commitments and promote a just, green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.’
‘This timely programme builds on the successes of the ACU’s existing partnership with the British Council, to continue lifting the voices of young leaders through the Commonwealth Futures series.’
Maddalaine Ansell, Director of Education, British Council said: 'The British Council is delighted to be working closely with the ACU, supporting emerging research leaders to collaborate and use their voices and expertise to influence and inspire climate action. Science is crucial to this endeavour and the British Council is proud to work with young people committed to leading transformative change as the UK chairs COP26.'
Meet the rising stars
Reflecting the diversity of the Commonwealth, the Climate Research Cohort convenes a gender-balanced group of researchers based in 25 ACU member universities across the Pacific, Caribbean, Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Asia:
- Andrea Clayton, Caribbean Maritime University, Jamaica
- Astrid Alexandra Werkmeister, University of Strathclyde, UK
- Chandima Kumudini Ariyarathna Hanchapola Appuhamilage, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
- Chukwueloka Udechukwu Okeke, Covenant University, Nigeria
- Constantinos Vassiliades, University of Cyprus
- Daniel Etongo, University of Seychelles
- Eric Yiadom Boachie, University of Professional Studies Accra, Ghana
- Fatma Abdelaal, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
- Henri Court-Evans, the University of Eswatini
- Iroja Caldera, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Kokila Konasinghe, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Lucy Richardson, Monash University, Australia
- Mahendra Gooroochurn, the University of Mauritius
- Marium Alleyne, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
- Ogheneruona Endurance Diemuodeke, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
- Olujumoke Adesola Ogunrayi, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
- Olumuyiwa Bayode Adegun, Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria
- Oyediran Olusegun Oyebola, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
- Rachel Sarah Friedman, Australian National University
- Ravita Devi Prasad, Fiji National University
- Refilwe Precious Mofokeng, University of KwauZulu-Natal, South Africa
- Rufino Varea, the University of the South Pacific, Fiji
- Scott J. Davidson, University of Waterloo, Canada
- Stephen Summers, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
- Tracy-Ann Nicole Hyman, the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, Jamaica
- Wassim Dbouk, University of Southampton, UK
Senior experts in climate research will also be participating as mentors to the rising stars, creating an enabling environment for success in the pivot from research to action.
This unique cohort pools expertise in areas closely aligned with the COP26 UK Presidency’s thematic priorities, including climate adaptation and resilience, climate finance, agriculture, land and marine ecosystems, and energy transition. By facilitating international collaboration, the programme breaks down silos between disciplines and borders, enabling bright minds to work together in pursuit of a common goal.
Looking ahead to COP26
While the climate crisis continues to loom large, on this fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, we have reason to be hopeful. Lessons from COVID-19 tell us that in the face of a common challenge, we are stronger when we work together and heed the outcomes of research.
On the road to COP26, preserving our planet is not just within the purview of the few - but a collective effort which finds a new generation of leaders in all corners of the world.