A Beginner’s Guide to COP 26

Find out more from the student members of Queen Mary Students’ Union’s Sustainability Board about COP26 and how to get involved with sustainability at Queen Mary.


A Beginner’s Guide to COP 26


Find out more from the student members of Queen Mary Students’ Union’s Sustainability Board about COP26 and how to get involved with sustainability at Queen Mary.

Meet the student members of Queen Mary Students’ Union’s Sustainability Board. This month has seen the UN Climate Conference, COP26 take place in Glasgow as world leaders try to agree a communal approach to responding to the climate emergency. Find out from the representatives their thoughts on COP and helping to protect our planet. 


Tell Us a Bit about Yourself.

Tala Sammur: As co-chair of Queen Mary’s Sustainability Board and Mile End Sustainability Officer, I aid in steering the approach to sustainability across QMSU and the university. In addition, I am a final year law student who, also, works with pro bono clinics to provide free legal advice.


Minahil Khan: I am a fourth year medical student. This year I have been elected as the Barts and the London Sustainability Officer and co-chair Sustainability Board. I work closely with both Queen Mary campuses at Mile End and Whitechapel to promote sustainability in the everyday aspects of student life.


Magdalini Parouti. I am completing my LLM in International Economic law with a focus on sustainability and human rights. I am also at the same time working on a UNEP project and practicing Adult Social Care Law as well as being the International Economic LLM Course Rep.


Alina Hassan: I am currently in my second year studying law. As someone who is passionate about the environment, I was elected to be the Mile End Sustainability Representative for the academic year.


Rosa Hughes: As a medical student, I am really interested in the many intersections of human health and planetary health. I believe collective action and protest are key components in the fight for climate justice, and that the best solutions in tackling the climate crisis also address other inequalities such as poverty, racism and gender inequality.


What is COP26 and why is it important to Queen Mary Students?

Magdalini: COP26 is the next UN Climate Conference. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and the summit will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994.


Alina: In my view, COP is a platform to hold our world leaders accountable for their climate-related promises. This year is particularly interesting conference to watch as this is the first COP since the coronavirus pandemic began, where many states are focused on the Building Back Better Strategy (BBB). I believe COP is important to Queen Mary students because climate change deeply affects all of us and our future generations to come. Today we are students, but we will be the political, corporate, community leaders of tomorrow. Hence, it is important to stay informed and do what we can in whatever capacity we currently have or will have.


Rosa: COP is attended by some of the world’s biggest polluters, alongside poorer countries with small carbon footprints; I would encourage everyone to stay informed and see which countries are pulling their weight, what the UK’s role is, and whether the targets of the Paris Agreement are being met. COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, protests all over the UK have drawn attention to this and demanded that rich countries and corporations pick up the pace in lowering their emissions.


Minahil: COP’s purpose is to urge countries to re-evaluate their previous goals and to come up with new ambitious emission reduction targets which hopefully help us reach ‘net-zero’ as an international community. While COP26 may seem like a conference for global leaders and environment ministers, I strongly believe that at Queen Mary, each student can play their own small but important role in helping the country meet its emissions targets. Students make a large part of our population and even a tiny environment-friendly action can have inspiring cumulative effects.


What top tips would you share with those looking to do something to help protect our planet during their studies at Queen Mary?


Rosa: Think about how your course relates to the climate and sustainability; every subject, from art to maths to medicine, both contributes to the climate crisis and has the potential to be a part of the solution. See what your course is teaching around sustainability; if there isn’t teaching about it, talk to other students and organise to change this!


Tala: The best way to aid in protecting our planet is by making changes within our direct community. I advise any student to get involved in the different sustainability volunteering opportunities on campus such as the Canal Clean Ups or Biodiversity Volunteering. I, also, encourage students to voice any sustainability-related concerns they may have about our university to the Sustainability Board so that we can make a change together.


Magdalini: By helping our planet, we are also helping ourselves and future generations. We are all so closely interlinked, our planet is the only common and tangible heritage we can pass on to the generations to come. It is therefore our responsibility to take conscious steps to safeguard the planet. Walking, cycling, taking the bus, it all contributes to less emissions, the same with unnecessary air travel and more contributions to volunteering and sustainability causes. 


Alina: Queen Mary has plenty of activities and events to enable you to create an impact. The Reuse Fair, Canal Clean Ups, Biodiversity Volunteering are just some examples of these. It is a great opportunity to not only do something good for the planet but make friends with like-minded individuals. It is easy to feel that our small environmental lifestyle changes do not make an impact. In these instances, I always remind myself of a Malay saying which goes “sikit demi sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit”. In direct English translation, it means “Bit by bit, after a long time it will become a hill”.


Minahil: My top tip would be to keep things simple! It is very easy and very simple for any individual to play their role in protecting the environment. At Queen Mary, we are fortunate to have many societies and student initiatives that not only raise awareness about sustainable ways of living but also provide opportunities for students to play a role in making our campus greener. My colleagues have listed quite a few examples above and we are always more than happy to take suggestions.


If you’re interested in getting involved in the work of the Sustainability Board or sustainability activities across the Students’ Union please get in touch or follow us on Instagram @QMULSustain.


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