Academia, Development Partners Discuss Climate Change Actions at SUNY-UWI Symposium


The effects of climate change are so dire and pervasive that approximately, 4 million children and young people worldwide took to the streets recently to demand action from world leaders to exert more efforts in tackling the climate change crisis.

In New York City, while an estimate 60,000 students marched through the streets of downtown Manhattan calling for climate action, academics from the University of the West Indies (UWI), THE State University of New York (SUNY), the joint SUNY-UWI Center, the Global University Consortium on SDG-13, a wide cross section of development partners including the World Bank, the International Development Bank (IDB), UNDP, UNECLAC, Association of Caribbean States (ACS) convened at SUNY Global Center in New York City for a Global Partnerships for Climate Action Symposium.

The discussion was centered on ways to tackle climate change challenges, structure and “strengthen the interface between knowledge, policy and practice; the practical application of research into climate innovations; research communication and advocacy in generating much-needed development impact at the grassroots level.”

Speaking at the Symposium, Professor Sir Hillary Beckles told the audience that  “We are at the tail end of the 19th century development paradigm that was based on economic growth by all means necessary, including colonial exploitation, white supremacy, destruction of rainforests, financial institutions catering for elites, and disrespect for the environment and the poor. We all want inclusive development that is sustainable. But human and civil rights cannot be again ignored and set aside. Universities should never again support ‘development by any means necessary.”

Moderated by Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs, UWI Symposium’s panelists include Prof. Kerim Nisancioglu, Professor of Climate Dynamics, University of Bergen, Ms Diane Quarles, Chief, ECLAC Sub-regional Headquarters for the Caribbean, Prof. Minghua Zhang, Interim Provost & SUNY Distinguished Professor in Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University, Prof. Michael Taylor, Professor of Climate Science, UWI Mona Campus and Ms. Raquel Moses, CEO, Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator among others

The four hour symposium concluded with a Closing Remarks by Dr. Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Director, Office of Development at the UWI. “It is our combined knowledge powerhouses and our joint action that will guide us to the development solutions our world so desperately needs,” Dr. Richard-Kennedy said.


Read Dr. Richards-Kennedy’s entire Closing Remarks below:

Excellencies, colleagues, friends, two days ago a 16 year old girl wise beyond her years stood before dozens of live news cameras in the US Congress and in her quiet unassuming yet very forthright way with three very short statements she tugged at the hearts  of millions of cable television viewers and what did she say?  “Listen to the scientists, unite behind the science then take real action.

As many of you know Greta Thunberg has become an iconic youth advocate with one sole mission and that is to put the spotlight on the existential threat of climate change. And after two weeks at sea crossing the Atlantic this was her call to action, listen to the scientists; unite behind the science and then act.

So we recognize that climate change issues are complex issues, climate change issues are inter-sectoral, they are transnational and they are structural they have a poverty dimension as we have heard, a gender dimension, age dimension and a power dimension.  And a power dimension also relates to those who determine access to or refusal of concessional financing based on GDP per capital conveniently overlooking the fact that many climate events do not distinguish between high, middle and low income countries.  And that the resulting widespread devastation, loss of life and psychological trauma are inflicted not on national budgets though these experiences are set back but on human beings like you and me.

And so to address climate change it will no doubt require multi lateral approaches, it will require multi-stakeholders approaches that are driven by partnerships that are driven by purpose and passion it calls for deep thoughtful and productive partnerships that are based on mutual trust and mutual respect.

So as you can see therefore it goes beyond funding and resource mobilization because those who are affected, particularly the small Island developing states that are disproportionately affected, it will entail scaling up as well as drilling down that is to say multiplying and also cascading the knowledge and skills that will enable the efficient channeling of those resources and the effective execution of targeted intersectoral projects.

This is absolutely essential if we are to implement climate solutions that will improve the lives of the communities we serve across the globe.  And therefore this expansion of knowledge and the honing of skills, my dear friends, bring us back to education and capacity building.  And I say this not because I work in a university, I say this because I am a development specialist at heart and after many years of working in development banking or in policy coordination at the UN level and diplomacy, I can say without fear of contradiction, that without education there is no development.

But today’s symposium has sought to go a step further, for it is not what we know that is important or that will make a difference, it is what we do with what we know. So we know that based on Professor Karim’s research the arctic ice is melting, the ice sheets are melting at an accelerated pace and this is having a cascading effect across the world.  We know based on Professor Taylor’s and Professor Agard’s research that tropical cyclones are becoming more frequent and more intense.  We know that European summers are getting hotter and drier.  We know that the forest fires are raging more wildly than ever before destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of terrestrial eco- systems in their wake.

And so while many may question the large sums that are needed for teaching research and innovation or they may squabble over whether university research is having a measurable impact on society, we in this room we know that we cannot afford not to invest in sessions like this.  It is research and knowledge exchange that are in fact the engine room for igniting human agency and advocacy and change.  It is through knowledge flows and not research in and of itself that change happens.

So today’s symposium has allowed us to tap into the knowledge power house of the UWI system, the SUNY system the SUNY-UWI Center the Global University Consortium on SDG 13 and a wide cross section of development partners including the World Bank, the IDB, UNDP, ECLAC, ACS and many of those represented in the room, our government partners, our private sector partners and our civil society actors alike.

So I thank each and every one of you panelists, participants for the generosity of your time, your focused attention and your stimulating interventions.  It is our combined knowledge power houses and our joint actions that will guide us to the development solutions that our world so desperately needs.

But we must be very deliberate about it we cannot expect it to happen organically or if mere lip service is paid to education research and innovation.  If we fail to recognize that our present day expenses are in fact critical investments in a more sustainable future as is underscored by a ground-breaking research article in the Journal of Science that was released just yesterday (by Professor Taylor) and we are very proud that our UWI scientist together with other scientists across the globe contributed to that path breaking article.

So ladies and gentlemen, as the director of the UWI Office of Development and a member of the board of the SUNY-UWI Center for Leadership and Development, allow me to bring this symposium to a close by saying it has been our honor and pleasure hosting you for this important discussion. Let us now pursue with vigor those livewire conversations and collaborations because there are many, many millions of other young people like Greta Thunberg and like those demonstrating on the streets today who are counting on us to unite behind the science and to act with urgency. I thank you.  Please join us for lunch up on the 3rdfloor we have a digital exhibits happening there and we also have refreshments for everyone, thank you.

About Dennis Kabatto 56 Articles
Dennis is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Licensed radio engineer and print reporter,. He is currently a co-host, producer & reporter for AfrobeatRadio on Pacifica Network Station WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York City. Former reporter/producer for now defunct WBAI News Dept. And news director of African New Dawn Radio heard over WRSU, 88.7 FM at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He formerly served as international news editor, News at 10 at Rutgers University's WRSU, 88.7 FM Former record review contributor and office manager of Accent/LA Publications in Los Angeles and a co-founder of Kronick Magazine also in Los Angeles.

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