COP21 from a junior researcher’s perspective

On December 12th 2015, almost 200 countries agreed that it is time to act against climate change, as a result of the COP21 – 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

roberto at COP21.2

The COP (Conference of Parties) is an annual event that aims at conveying within two weeks the attention of policymakers and other institutional actors on climate change challenges that humankind has been facing since the last century. The 21st edition of COP took place in Paris and expectations were high on the outcome of this conference, after the major failure for countries all over the world to find a common solution to climate change in previous COPs, especially the one in Copenhagen 7 years ago. During COP, there are not only negotiations between countries about actions to be undertaken in addressing climate change, but also exhibitors areas (from both organisations as countries’ delegations which are called countries pavilions), talks, presentations, and many other side events.

Roberto, a member of greenSTEMS, had the chance to be at this history-making event, as the organiser of an official side event in the EU pavilion. Here he shares his experience with us on what it means for an early researcher to participate in such an important conference.

roberto at COP21

I am working on a European-funded project called GreenEcoNet – which stands for Green Economy Network – at the University of York. This project aims at creating and establishing a platform of small- and medium-sized businesses[1], researchers/academics, and policy-makers to support the transition towards a greener economy by sharing solutions and tools developed or adopted by businesses across Europe (and soon across the globe). Part of the project also involves organising workshops during which the different actors of the platform seat together and discuss with an audience of experts, the most relevant topics for businesses and the green economy. This summer, with the help of the project partners, we applied to organise an official side event within the EU pavilion during COP21 and with much of a surprise from our side, we obtained a time slot during the second week. 

roberto's stand at COP21

Once you have the accreditation to enter in the so-called “Blue Zone”, where the negotiations are, you start to behave like a kid in a candy shop. I have attended as many events as possible, while interacting with exhibitors and other delegates on the interest of both the GreenEcoNet project and the side event.

Thanks to this experience, I was able to attend in person high-profile discussions, seminars, press releases and any other form of event that you can imagine with speakers like Ban Ki-Moon (UN General Secretary), John Kerry (Vice-President of the USA), Ségolene Royal (French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and the Environment), Sir Nicholas Stern (author of what some people call “the sacred-text of climate change”) and last but not least Al Gore. 

After one week of being in the same room with such key figures, you still get the giggles when meeting them and listening to their motivating speeches and statements, which are going to be stored in my memories linked to this experience, for many years in the future.

However, participating to a COP, is not only about meeting and taking pictures of the “VIPs”, it is also about having the great opportunity to attend very interesting discussions with best researchers and academics that are willing to share their most recent and interesting work with the whole community.

The bottom line is that young researchers like myself should all have the opportunity to participate to such high-level and large conferences for their own professional and personal development. For this reason I really hope that the organisations for whom they work will be able to provide the funding to attend events that make history.

[1] Therefore less than 250 employees and €50 mln annual turnover. 



Contributed by Roberto Rinaldi


Roberto is part of the GECO group (Green ECOnomists) at the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York. As a Research Associate, he collaborates on the creation and implementation of low-carbon development strategies at local scale economy. Roberto is also involved in European-wide projects, being recently appointed Project Officer for the EU FP7 funded GreenEcoNet platform.


  • Learn more about the COP21 here
  • Read the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments on the Paris Agreement here
  • Have a look at The Fragile Network , a special Nature comic by R. Monastersky & N. Sousanis explaining the long-lasting quest towards a climate agreement



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s