Egypt’s universities are playing an active role in the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which Egypt will host in November, with opportunities for students and faculty members to participate before, during, and after the summit.
Abdel-Rahman Ashraf, a third-year biotechnology student at Cairo University’s Faculty of Agriculture, is among the lucky students who have won a seat among world leaders who will attend the summit, known as COP27, in the Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh.
For years, Ashraf had been watching the problems left by floods for the citizens of his hometown in Sohag, in Upper Egypt. This prompted him to employ scientific tools in his research for solutions.
“I designed a capsule to be placed at the exit of a floodwater torrent, which can hold up to 5,000 liters of water,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “This water can then be used for agricultural or industrial purposes.”
Ashraf’s research won first place in a competition organised by Cairo University, which secured his chance to participate in the Sharm el-Sheikh climate summit.
Climate Summit Simulation Models
Ahead of the summit, Ashraf will participate in a simulation model of the conference at Cairo University. In the simulation sessions, students will act as political leaders and engage in exercises that mimic the actual COP27 activities.
“I have become more aware of the changes taking place around us due to climate change. I see a great need to spread awareness in our society so that everyone can take the initiative and devise solutions to deal with the crisis, each in his field of specialisation.”Raghad Khaled, A dentistry student at King Salman International University who is working on research about climate anxiety
Other universities are organising similar simulation models. They include the British University in Egypt, which launched a simulation model in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and several Egyptian, Arab and African universities.
Another model involves the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Volunteers Program, a program by the Faculty of Economic Studies and Political Science at Alexandria University, the Nation Development Project, and the Earth’s Climate for Sustainable Development Foundation (EC4SDF).
Students in many disciplines are also preparing climate related research ahead of the summit.
Raghad Khaled, a second-year dentistry student at King Salman International University, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, at first was not interested when she was invited to participate in a research competition organised by the Global University Climate Forum.
The topic was far from her major, she thought. However, she decided to take a chance anyway. The outcome exceeded her expectations, and now she is very interested in climate change, she told Al-Fanar Media.
The Global University Climate Forum was launched in 2009 to encourage university students worldwide to participate in that year’s climate summit, COP15. Since then, the forum has been organising events to encourage students to contribute to creating solutions to environmental challenges.
Khaled decided to explore the impact of climate change on mental health, after noticing an atmosphere of “climate anxiety” in the city of El-Tor, where her university is located, that was affecting her and other students’ moods.
Khaled said team members had talked to psychiatrists in different countries about the impact of climate change on mental health and launched an Instagram page to spread awareness about this topic.
She and her colleagues are keen to participate in the Global University Climate Forum’s virtual summit to enrich their knowledge about climate change and related matters, she said. They are also looking forward to participating in the activities at Sharm el-Sheikh.
“I have become more aware of the changes taking place around us due to climate change,” she said. “I see a great need to spread awareness in our society so that everyone can take the initiative and devise solutions to deal with the crisis, each in their field of specialisation.”
Faculty Members Also Participate
The climate summit is an opportunity for faculty members as well. Egyptian universities have organised research competitions for faculty members to confront climate change.
“We do not want students’ interest in this important and critical issue to stop after the end of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. We hope that the summit will be just the beginning of spreading environmental awareness on a larger scale among university students.”Nisreen Hossam El-Din, Vice dean for community service and environmental development at Beni Suef University’s Faculty of Media
Khaled Zaki, an assistant professor of communication at the Arab Open University, said COP27 organisers had asked universities to nominate faculty members who had researched climate change to participate in the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.
“I was nominated by the Arab Open University to present a research paper on media and climate change,” he told Al-Fanar Media. The paper reviews problems like the superficial treatment of environmental issues in newspapers and proposes eight ways to activate the media in spreading awareness about climate change.
Fatma al-Zahra Ashour, director of the Center for Environmental Hazard Mitigation and Environmental Research and Studies at Cairo University, told Al-Fanar Media that the centre had submitted two research proposals for projects to dispose of agricultural waste and convert it into fuel, as part of a competition organised by Cairo University. She noted that the two projects won funding grants to start their implementation.
Inas Abu Youssef, dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication at Ahram Canadian University, in 6th of October City, Egypt, said the university had launched awareness activities, including a “Go Green” campaign that encourages recycling and agricultural activities on campus.
Planning New Courses
Some universities adding courses related to climate change awareness.
Nisreen Hossam El-Din, vice dean for community service and environmental development at Beni Suef University’s Faculty of Media, said that the college had discussed creating a special course for environmental and climate change journalism, allowing students to research climate change in various disciplines. It is also organising workshops on climate change journalism and has published a magazine called “Ozone” on the environment and climate change.
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“We do not want students’ interest in this important and critical issue to stop after the end of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit,” she told Al-Fanar Media. “We hope that the summit will be just the beginning of spreading environmental awareness on a larger scale among university students.”
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Also see Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on this topic.