App Heads of State reflect on COP26 | USS News


GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – As the world turned its attention to the 26th Annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, App State had three of its own members in the audience for COP 26 for the first time in the history of the university.

Lee Ball, director of sustainability, Martin Meznar, associate dean of global and civic engagement at Walker College of Business and Dave McEvoy, chair of the economics department were granted observer status to attend meetings throughout the two-week international summit aimed at accelerating action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

While each of the App State representatives had their own favorite experiences, all three highlighted the opportunity to network and build relationships focused on sustainability at the conference.

“I was really interested in networking, developing partnerships, meeting different people from different organizations,” Ball said.

He was able to speak to CEOs of energy companies, executive directors of nonprofits, representatives from the North Carolina governor’s office who can expand App State connections locally and internationally.

For Meznar, the conference was an opportunity to rekindle relations. In the past, App State has partnered with the Sustainable Amazon Foundation of Brazil, which has asked members to visit App State on several occasions. Likewise, App State students and administrators also visited the Amazon.

“Due to COVID-19, we had completely lost touch with them and hadn’t communicated much, but the president of the organization was hosting a panel,” Meznar said. “We were able to reunite with old friends with whom we have lost contact and who are involved in the process of protecting the Amazon rainforest and rekindling this relationship.”

McEvoy, who specializes in environmental economics, said he envisioned the plan in fall 2019. Other North Carolina universities, such as Duke, invited groups to attend the conference as non-governmental organizations, especially as research institutes, and he realized this could be a great opportunity for App State.

“I hadn’t realized how long the request was,” McEvoy said, but nearly two years later he learned in August that the group had been given interim status, where on the first day of the conference, a committee decides which institutions are or are not allowed to attend.

Although App State was given permission to observe the conference, it only received three passes.

Going forward, all three said they hoped to bring students and other state officials to the app, but it wouldn’t be easy. Although each of this year’s attendees received funding from their respective offices and departments, Meznar said traveling abroad is expensive and that with other trips, such as the ones the College of Business regularly hosts, cost is a barrier for students.

Just because App State received observer status this year doesn’t mean it will continue to receive that status at every COP summit, McEvoy said.

“It was like no other conference I’ve been to,” Ball said.

Ball, Meznar and McEvoy agreed that the number of events they could see were at times almost overwhelming, along with other unofficial talks, protests and events taking place around Glasgow.

COP26 was also unlike any other COP conference in history, according to Ball. App State attendees were able to attend the first COP conference where fossil fuels were directly addressed in the conference agreement document, a significant shift in international outlook on energy.

The three all plan to incorporate their experiences at COP26 into their work on campus. Ball said that as chair of the University’s Planning and Priorities Council, he reflected on his experience at COP26 while participating in a listening session for the university’s next five-year strategic plan which is currently being drafted.

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