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Reflections on COP15: What we can do to green UCL

8 January 2010


UCL's student 'dream team' youtube.com/watch?v=mlpRyhdOE-c" target="_self">Watch the 'dream team' in Copenhagen on UCL's YouTube channel
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  • Richard Dent was part of a UCL student 'dream team' who travelled to Denmark last month at the time of  the Copenhagen summit on climate change - otherwise known as COP15.

    Richard, who is studying for an MSc in Environment, Science and Society, and his fellow students attended a workshop on campus sustainability organised by Yale University.

    Here he writes about meeting Secretary of State Hilary Benn before departure and some of the ideas the team explored on their trip.

    "Before the UCL team left we took part in a Geography department Q&A session with government minister Hillary Benn. Mr Benn, Secretary of State for Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the  highlighted the importance of a legally binding deal based on the scientific consensus on climate change.

    "He said a deal at Copenhagen 'must be reached' in order to protect the UK and world from the effects of climate change. Responding to a question from a UCL team member, he also said that it was not the government's role to educate the UK public on climate science, suggesting that scientists should take the lead.

    "Hosted at the University of Copenhagen, the two-day Yale event centred on producing a poster on ways to green our universities. Based on ideas from Carnegie Mellon University, we looked into UCL's energy efficiency institutional framework and how we could improve it.

    "Our team came up with a motivation scheme that turns greening of buildings into a competition between departments. Instead of just financial rewards, departments earn a smiley face on a board outside the building. Inefficient buildings get a sad face. Results would be displayed on UCL's homepage.

    "Psychological studies have shown this technique to be successful in reducing the speed of drivers through villages. In order to fund UCL's efficiency retrofit, we came up with a funding scheme based on a choice architecture that allows students to opt out of a green surcharge that is automatically added to their overall fees.

    "While in Copenhagen, the UCL team attended a Yale alumni party hosted by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Patchauri. The Nobel laureate spoke about the importance of civil society in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change system and how climate scientists need to be better communicators.

    "With most commentators suggesting that the meeting failed to reach a significant agreement, what role can UCL play in international policy and communications? Hopefully, the ideas the UCL team gathered in Copenhagen can be implemented here and we can become a model for other universities around the world."

    For more information about UCL's work on climate change and the environment follow the links above.

    Image: UCL's student 'dream team'

    Related stories:
    Reflections on COP15: two steps forward, one step back
    Envisaging the sustainable university