UCL’s ’Love Your Planet’ symposium showcases efforts to fight climate change

(Left to Right) Mark Watts, Director of C40 Cities, Dr Simon Chin-Yee and Porfes
(Left to Right) Mark Watts, Director of C40 Cities, Dr Simon Chin-Yee and Porfessor Priti Parikh discuss COP28 with host Shooka Bidarian.

On Valentine’s Day, UCL hosted the Love Your Planet climate symposium featuring speakers from a range of backgrounds highlighting how academics, business leaders, policy makers and activists are working together to effect change and fight global warming.

With the aim to both illuminate decision-making processes and inspire the next generation of climate pioneers, participants emphasised the importance of reducing global emissions, accelerating the green transition and the UK converting to a net-zero economy.

A collaboration between UCL, the Climate Reality Foundation, and Climate Café, and hosted by filmmaker Shooka Bidarian, Love Your Planet brought together members of UCL’s esteemed faculty, students, and guests with policy influencers, industry leaders, and civil society advocates.

The event opened with a recorded welcome from former US vice president and founder of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, who called on attendees to act and hold political leaders accountable to past climate pledges.

With the symposium coming shortly after the conclusion of COP28, Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography), Professor Priti Parikh (UCL Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction) and Dr Simon Chin-Yee (UCL Political Science), all members of UCL’s delegation, explored what was achieved at the global conference, and what work still needs to be done. They highlighted how, for the first time, fossil fuels were described as the root cause of climate change and how world leaders had agreed to transition away from their use, but lamented the slow progress on it and other issues - including financing the global loss and damage fund.

Professor Parikh said: "I’ve been to three COPs and this was the first COP that highlighted fossil fuels as the primary culprit, and I thought that was pretty obvious."

Policy officials, including Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London, and Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council in London, described how many cities were leading by enacting sustainable, net-zero policies to reduce their carbon footprint. Other policy advocates including Robbie McPherson at Uplift, Tone Langenge from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and Annabel Rice at Green Alliance, highlighted both local and national policy approaches to reducing carbon emissions and raise public awareness.

Speakers also highlighted other, less traditional ways to raise awareness about the climate crisis. Professor Maslin recounted his work with renowned comedian Jo Brand and the organisation Climate Science Breakthrough to shoot a video humorously "translating" climate science, and how that helped reach even wider audiences, including a spot together on Good Morning Britain. Similarly, singer Louise Harris spoke about how her hit song "We Tried" topped the UK iTunes chart, reaching members of the public that otherwise may have been less tuned into the crisis.

Professor Maslin said: "The one thing we can’t give into is that view of a catastrophic future, that of ’doomism.’ We’re humanity, we are the most innovative species that has ever existed, we have all the solutions. We can change our impact, we can reduce it. There is nothing holding us back apart from our political system."

Speaking alongside Harris, Mary McHarg, UCL Student Union Affairs Officer and UCL student representative at COP28, Molly Palmer, Vice President and Secretary of Warwick University Campus Corps’ Climate Reality Chapter, and activist Lauren MacDonald explored how students and young people were central to the climate effort. They expressed a sense that people of all’ages have much to contribute, despite a sense that often youth voices were not always taken seriously in policy-making circles.

Representatives from business and industry are also rising to meet the climate challenge. Buffy Price, co-founder of Carbon Re, a UCL spinout, described how her company uses AI to model manufacturing plants and identify ways to reduce their energy consumption. Also speaking were Erik Dalhuijsen, co-founder of Transition Catalyst consultants, Simon Heppner, co-founder of Net Zero Now climate consultants, and Eleni Polychroniadou, co-founder of Sintali green transition advisors, as well as Milan van der Meulen who co-founded the Soly solar panel technology company.

Other speakers included UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence, Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost for Research, Innovation & Global Engagement, and Professor Lisa Vanhala (UCL Political Science).

    Mike Lucibella

      E: m.lucibella [at] ucl.ac.uk

    University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000