Edinburgh attend COP25

University of Edinburgh staff help launch zero-carbon vision for Galápagos Islands at the UN’s Climate Change Conference

By Fiona Murray

Staff from The University of Edinburgh attended The UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid to help launch the zero-carbon vision for the Galápagos Islands, which the University is supporting.

What is COP25 all about?

COP25 took place under the Presidency of the Government of Chile and was held with logistical support from the Government of Spain, 2-13 December 2019. The conference aims to drive forward countries to increase their national commitments to cut emissions. It is designed to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process and build ambition ahead of 2020, the year in which counties have committed to submit new and updated national climate action plans.

Edinburgh’s attendance at COP25

Key University staff, including Dr Soledad Garcia Ferrari, International Dean for Latin America, Professor Sandy Tudhope, Dr Meriwether Wilson and Dr Ed Craig co-presented the launch of the Galápagos Zero Fossil Fuels Initiative and the partnership between the Galápagos Government, the Charles Darwin Foundation and the University of Edinburgh – to raise the profile of the project and gain support. The three entities bring to the table a mix of public, academic and non-profit sector, with experience in island settings, protected areas, conservation, community engagement and sustainability. Together, the ‘Resources, Renewable Energy Systems and Islands Vision’ was launched, aiming for net-zero carbon emissions of the Galápagos Islands by 2040. This is based on extending collaboration between The University of Edinburgh, the Galápagos Government and the UK-Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce in the creation of an innovation hub, leading a programme for sustainable use of resources and renewable energy in the Galápagos Islands.

"The Galápagos Islands are one of the most important ecosystems in the world. We have a historical connection to the Islands through Charles Darwin, and I’m delighted that we are taking our collaboration into the future, with our commitment to develop a hub to support the Galapagos Islands 2040 Vision to create a secure, sustainable low-carbon island economy driven by innovation and collaboration."

Professor James Smith, Vice-Principal International

Project aims for a zero-carbon vision

This project aims to ensure sustainable development for local people and the local tourism industry, within the setting of a unique and sensitive place. As with some Scottish Islands, some of the Galápagos are looking to try to change their sources of income away from tourism. The University’s ambition is to look at the energy consumption in the islands and analyse society with a view to changing their way of living. The Galápagos are a unique, controlled environment, 96% of the land is national park, remote and contained, like a laboratory – fantastic for testing ideas.

The project will explore the challenges, drivers and opportunities for achieving equitable access to energy resources in the region. It aims to understand the political, regulatory, social, economic and environmental context of the Galápagos Islands for the supply, access and security of energy resources, drawing on current discourses of policy and practice, successes and failures, and local capacity for change. The Centre of Innovation will help exchange of knowledge, generate interest and engage a range of stakeholders. Local, national and international examples of best practise can then be shared via this hub.

Why Edinburgh is especially well placed to collaborate and help Galapagos Islands to achieve these goals

The University of Edinburgh is at the forefront of international research on climate change and the technologies and polices needed to mitigate its effects. The role the University has played in the development of strategy for reduction of carbon emissions in Scotland (ECCI Scottish Islands, Orkney) is a fantastic example of its expertise and how it can collaborate with and help the Galápagos islands do the same. The University not only recognises the importance of its expertise on a national level, but on an international level as well.

This project is in line with the University’s global ambition and strategy to deliver impact for society, where it is most needed and make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution. There is potential with this project for real-world impact, and continued research on a model zero carbon environment template with this partnership will hopefully help other parts of the world in the future too.

What happens next?

COP25 signals the start of 12 months of negotiations that will culminate in Glasgow with COP26 in November next year. At this time, the University is committed to providing a reflection of the progress made during the year.

Find out more about our Latin America regional team

Regional Team – Latin America