COP26 at Wolfson

JRF Helene Hoffmann

As the eyes of the world are focused on COP26 in Glasgow, we look back at last month’s 'COP26 at Wolfson', and ask some of the participants what they thought of the event and why the latest climate summit in Glasgow might be "a last chance".

JRF Helene Hoffmann

COP26 at Wolfson was a week-long event, uniting students, Fellows, alumni, College staff, and others to put the spotlight on some of the major questions facing the world in the midst of the climate crisis:

  • How can we make sustainability fair and equitable for all?
  • What is the role of corporate vs government vs personal responsibility in taking action?
  • What’s the role of adaption and mitigation?
  • And how can we limit temperature to 1.5 degrees?

The event kicked off with an Arts & Media Exhibition, and each day of COP26 at Wolfson focused on a specific theme, with accompanying activities ranging from climate poetry readings, workshops on coping with the climate crisis, roundtable discussions – including a session on Human Rights, Policy and Law –, as well as everything from a climate crisis simulation to a Green Film Night.

We asked some of the participants what they thought of the event and what is so critical about the latest climate summit in Glasgow:

Dr Helene Hoffmann, Junior Research Fellow (JRF), and Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Earth Sciences

“The COP26 week at Wolfson was inspiring in many ways. I especially enjoyed taking part in the round table discussion about Urgency, Action, Ambition and Adaptation. Being a climate scientist myself, it was really interesting to bring together the science view of the topic with the social and societal impacts and even an artistical approach on communicating climate change issues.

“COP26 might be the last chance for the world leaders to finally make binding decisions on limiting the global greenhouse gas emissions so the future generations can still live on this planet without major conflicts about water and habitable areas.

“We’ve known about climate change for more than 40 years now and yet all the discussions and especially decisions coming out of these conferences have barely changed during the years. It is crucial for the future of our environment that this COP26 finally makes some (uncomfortable) decisions.”

Read our interview with Dr Hoffmann from earlier in the year in our News section.

Oscar Holgate, Head Gardener

“Everyone knows we are in a climate crisis, so COP26 at Wolfson was an opportunity to find ways of moving positively forward and making Wolfson a greener, more sustainable place to live and work. 

“It gave us in the gardens team the chance to highlight some key notes on what is available to all students, where to get involved, and what to be looking out for with future events, so that as many students as possible have an outreach on all sustainability matters. 

“And it really brought all students, staff and fellows together, bringing a sense of community that we can all benefit from, giving way to open discussion and insight into research studies and professions that will eventually be beneficial, not just to Wolfson College, but the wider world.”

Hui Ben, Architecture alumna

"COP26 is a crucial summit for countries to reach consensus and take actions to consolidating climate goals. Governments are in the unique positions to generate tangible impact and bring forth the plans and policies needed to reach net zero. 

"As a Research Associate working in the field of sustainable built environment, my mission is to develop an evidence base for innovative remote sensing application on building energy efficiency and retrofit. I have been a Wolfson member since my MPhil+PhD in Architecture and have recently been actively participating in the S&C Hub with Living Lab project, working on Wolfson College estate buildings and their retrofit potentials towards net zero. 

"The COP26 at Wolfson week has been a fantastic opportunity to connect with other enthusiasts interested in green issues and to showcase our work, as well as generating potential for further collaborations. It’s a small step from the College front, echoing the big step of COP26 at Glasgow, in the hope to stimulate more positive actions from the College in the pursuit of sustainability!"

Alice Adami, PhD student and contributor to the Human Rights, Policy and Law Roundtable 

“Tackling climate change effectively and fairly requires a holistic, non-sectorial approach. As we discussed at the Roundtable on Human rights, Policy and Law event, this means adopting integrated strategies that address the entire complexity of the Earth systems and societal interests across all communities. The event generated a stimulating exchange of perspectives which showcased  the strength of Wolfson’s interdisciplinarity - crucial to research in sustainability."

Helle Porsdam, current Visiting Fellow, Professor of Law and Humanities at the Centre for Studies in Legal Culture at the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Law

“It was a great pleasure to moderate the roundtable discussion on Human Rights, Policy and Law during the COP26 at Wolfson week. I am spending Michaelmas Term at Wolfson in order to work with colleagues at CRASSH on the human right to science, so the panel discussion on October 21 was highly relevant to me. All speakers did a wonderful job and highlighted a number of issues that are very pertinent to present debates on climate change. Climate change is THE global problem today, and a human rights approach is useful for making COP26 succeed.”

Marie-Anne Coninsx, Wolfson alumna and former EU Arctic Ambassador

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Indeed, the dramatic warming-up of the Arctic does contribute significantly to global warming and increase of extreme weather events all over. To keep climate change under control, sustainable development of the Arctic is key to the region and to the world.

“As alumna of Wolfson College, I highly appreciated addressing key aspects of climate change at the COP26-Wolfson event, highlighting the importance of sustainability and the need for adaptation - emergency responses to deal with the nexus of climate change.

“During the preparations, I enjoyed working together with a highly dynamic, enthusiast, skilled team of scholars. The outcome was a most refreshing, original set-up of the COP26 at Wolfson, benefiting of the rich, most diverse, academic and/or practical expertise of its participants. Proud of Wolfson’s engagement for sustainability and climate action!

“I agree with those saying that the COP26 in Glasgow can only be successful if there is political will to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Drilling fossil fuels is not compatible with sustainability. Sticking to fossil fuels mortgages climate action, mortgages the future.”

Watch our Green Talk with Marie-Anne from April 2020 on The Changing Arctic, its Challenges and Global Impact.


Getting Involved

If you’d like to get involved, there are many ways for Wolfson members to plug in to the sustainability activities in College, from getting stuck in with the Wolfson Student Garden to joining the Sustainability & Conservation Interdisciplinary Research Hub. The S&C Hub offers lots of options, including:

  • Devising a Living Lab project
  • Leading or contributing to the S&C Hub’s Theory of Change events and activities
  • Holding your own event under the S&C Hub banner
  • Providing mentoring to current students or staff
  • Adding your published works to the Wolfson S&C Hub Library Collection for students and staff to access
  • Funding Wolfson studentships in Sustainability or Conservation
  • Funding the administration of the S&C Hub
  • Suggesting links for our growing list of free Resources
  • Becoming a speaker for our Green Talks lecture series

If you’d like to know more, you can get in contact with the S&C Hub team.

You can find the full programme for COP26 at Wolfson, including daily themes, event summaries, and recordings, on the Wolfson website.