UNE granted U.N. observer status to attend global climate change conference

Photo of Scottish Event Campus
The Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow will host the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference this November.

The University of New England has become the only institution in Maine to be granted non-governmental observer status to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and will attend state-level conversations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in late October.

Having observer status will allow delegates from UNE to observe global policy decisions as they are made — “policy decisions that will impact our lives for generations,” said Holly Parker, Ph.D., director of UNE North: The Institute for North Atlantic Studies at UNE. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our students, faculty, and professional staff to be in the room when these global conversations are happening.”

Parker added that observer status demonstrates UNE’s commitment to climate action.

UNE adopted its first Climate Action Plan in 2010, calling for the University to become carbon neutral by 2040. In 2015, UNE became one of the few institutions in the Northeast to academically engage undergraduate students in climate change topics by offering an interdisciplinary minor in Climate Change Studies.

“To be accepted into the global climate change conversation is a statement about UNE’s priorities and values,” Parker said.

Parker will travel to Glasgow with Glenn Page, president of the consulting firm SustainaMetrix and advisor to UNE’s Institute for North Atlantic Studies, to attend global climate talks and present their joint research on bioregional planning. Bioregioning is a field in which geographical areas are defined by ecological systems rather than political boundaries.

“Climate change does not respect political boundaries,” Parker said. “A bioregional approach allows us to see beyond these human constructs to better understand how biological and human systems interact and how we can, through governance, transform those systems for a more sustainable future.”

Parker and Page will travel to Glasgow on Oct. 28 to attend state-level talks. The formal COP26 conference runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 12.