resident of Crystal travels to Scotland for climate conference | Local news


Eric Barry, resident of Crystal, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo submitted)

Eric Barry, resident of Crystal, recently had the opportunity to visit Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Barry, a graduate student of science, technology and environmental policy, said he was grateful for the chance to attend the event as part of a group of faculty and students from the University. of Minnesota.

“It was certainly heartbreaking, but in the best possible way,” he said of the event which brought together 120 world leaders and more than 40,000 attendees over two weeks.

The outcome of this year’s United Nations Conference of the Parties was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which is the first climate agreement to specifically mention the need to move away from coal-fired electricity and fossil fuel subsidies. . It was also the first COP to directly recognize fossil fuels.

“Recognizing that on the international stage is really a big deal,” he said.

One of the most contested decisions of the conference was the agreement of countries on a provision calling for a phase-out of coal-fired electricity and a phase-out of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies.

“In the United States, coal is a part of our electricity production, but it is declining rapidly for purely economic reasons. Natural gas, wind and solar are getting cheaper and cheaper and therefore coal is just not profitable for these companies, ”Barry said, noting that there is pressure to phase out coal itself. if developing countries like India still depend on it as the predominant source. of electricity production.


A photo taken by Eric Barry at the American Pavilion during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. (Photo submitted)

As a student of energy policy and renewable energy transition, Barry said he was particularly interested to hear speakers and panelists discussing ways to further decarbonise power systems around the world. It’s a topic he said he plans to pursue in his career after graduating next spring with a master’s degree in environmental science, technology and policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“How do you get more wind and solar power on the grid and how do you get coal and gas off the grid?” It’s a complex problem, ”he said. “There are a lot of stakeholders, there are a lot of equity considerations to take into account and a lot of interested bodies.

Another key topic Barry heard about at the conference was how the financial factors in climate change discussions, including how to raise the money needed to encourage developing countries to invest in solar energy and wind turbine instead of building coal-fired power plants. For developed countries like the United States, the question is how to raise money while ensuring that all changes and mitigation strategies are equitable, Barry said.

“It’s very easy to spend money on a problem, but often the people in power with the money will receive these benefits,” he said. “How can we be proactive about how we mobilize and spend these financial resources in a fair and just manner? … I think it’s really important to shine a light on how we are going to raise all the money needed in the world to solve this problem and this was the first COP to focus on this.

In the weeks following the conference, Barry said he read very different headlines – some calling the event a success and others a failure.

“Really, it’s in between,” he said. “In the end, COP26 was a step in the right direction at a time when we need an all-out sprint. And I don’t really expect these COP conferences to be the end of all solutions. I don’t think a successful COP is the one where we come out of it saying we’re going to have zero emissions tomorrow because that’s really unreasonable. … These (conferences) serve as a checkpoint for the international community every year. … Hopefully over the years we encourage each other to step up our commitments and thus create greater changes over time.

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