Salve Regina delegates will attend COP26, global climate change conference
For nearly three decades, the United Nations (UN) has brought together almost every country on earth for global climate summits called Conference of Parties (COPs). COP26 is the 26th annual summit, and it’s currently being held Nov. 1-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
This year, three of Salve Regina’s very own community members will be attending COP26 as delegates from Monday, Nov. 8 through Friday, Nov. 12. The three delegates are Dr. Jameson Chace, professor in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences; Florencia Reiche Blanco ’23, a double major in environmental studies as well as sociology and anthropology; and Cassidy Curry ’23, an environmental studies major with a double minor in liberal studies and religious studies.
“It is an amazing and humbling opportunity to participate in the undoubtably most significant global environmental issue of our time,” said Dr. Chace. “The significance will largely depend on what nations do or don’t do before 2025 and will be reflected upon by later generations as a moment of universal triumph or colossal failure. That Salve Regina has the opportunity … to bring any small part of Mercy to this international affair might be the most significant thing we can do.”
Salve Regina was first admitted as an observer organization to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the advocacy of Dr. Peter Liotta, former executive director of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy and contributing member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In 2019, Salve Regina’s institutional membership in the UNFCCC as an admitted NGO observer was renewed by President Kelli J. Armstrong and the Office of Mission Integration, paving the way for Salve Regina to send a delegation to COP26. Salve Regina was granted three delegates for COP26.
Becoming student delegates to COP26
Students Curry and Reiche Blanco have both been interested in climate change issues since they were in high school, and they both picked Salve Regina because of its strong environmental studies program. After hearing of the opportunity for COP26, they applied to be part of Salve Regina’s delegation. They are honored that they were selected.
“COP26 has different levels of discussions that focus on different areas and problems around climate change,” described Curry. “Each day has a different theme to them — so there are more economic-based solutions, there are more cultural-based solutions and more social solutions that they discuss in these meetings. There’s also a lot of different forums … and other things to do on the side.”
Reiche Blanco, who is originally from Coast Rica, said that she’s excited to learn about how different countries are tackling climate change, as well as to network with like-minded people from around the planet.
“For me, it’s gonna be an opportunity to see what I want to do in the future — to see if this is something that I want to get into,” she said.
Curry and Reiche Blanco both said that their goal is to attend as many events as possible. “We will all go to a different conversation for every session. At the end of the day, we can regroup and share that information with each other so that way we can get the most information as possible,” described Curry.
The two students will be doing an Instagram takeover of the University’s official Instagram account all day on Tuesday, Nov. 9, so that everyone can get an up-close experience of COP26.
Climate change conversations on campus
According to Salve Regina’s three delegate, the goal is to bring back information gleaned from COP26 to Salve Regina, with the hopes of collaborating on future educational events on campus in coordination with the Office of Mission Integration. Climate change directly ties into Salve Regina’s Critical Concerns of Mercy, so they hope that COP26 can spark further conversations.
“I’ve been interested in is a lot of environmental justice and a lot of urban development conversations, which I think are really cool,” said Curry. “Making sure that we can kind of implement these changes on a day-to-day level for an average person, and it’s not just huge changes that only the really rich can afford to make …. So I’m excited to kind of bring information back and see if there are things that we can incorporate into Salve into our community here.”
Dr. Chace also echoed these sentiments. “I hope can leave Scotland with more people knowing who we are at Salve Regina and what value we bring to the conversation.,” he said. “The knowledge we return to Salve from the planned events will hopefully inform our community with greater knowledge about the issues, the process and the people involved. I hope we can hand off this opportunity to other faculty and students for COP27, COP28, and onward — allowing as many people as possible to be involved.”
Mercy International Association (MIA) is an organization of the leaders of Mercy Congregations, Institutes and Federations throughout the world founded to serve the Sisters of Mercy. The work of Mercy Global Action (MGA), an arm of MIA, is centered at the United Nations and seeks to advance work on two key areas: degradation of earth and displacement of persons. Collen Swain ’16, ’17 (M), a distinguished alumna of Salve Regina, presently serves as leadership development and advocacy asssociate at Mercy Global Action and has attended COP24 and COP25 as a delegate for MIA and MGA. Swain has been a significant collaborator in preparing Salve Regina’s COP26 delegation and developing the advocacy priorities of mercy at COP26.