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AUA Students at UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow

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Three American University of Armenia (AUA) students took part in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, November 6-12, 2021. Students Ofelia Akofian (MPSIA ‘22), Nane Khachikyan (BAB ‘24 and Environmental Studies Minor), and Aleksandr Hakobyan (BSES ‘23 and Environmental Studies Minor), and the Director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, Alen Amirkhanian, represented Armenia in the university’s first-ever participation in a global climate change conference of parties. The RA Ministry of Environment, the national focal point for climate change, included all AUA participants as official members of the Republic of Armenia delegation, enabling attendance to negotiation rooms as well as UN and country/regional side events.

For the AUA student delegates, this was an enriching first-hand experience in large-scale global environmental negotiations. As official delegates, the students also prepared and submitted mission reports to the RA Ministry of Environment on the discussions and talks they attended, including the observations and contacts made, and ideas for next steps.

Khachikyan summarized her experience in these words: “COP26 was an amazing opportunity for learning the efforts needed to address the global climate crisis. The initiatives I learned about showed that despite the power of big players, small actions, small people, and small countries matter. We matter. That is why we must participate, cooperate, negotiate, learn and develop to make our ‘small’ contribution for the realization of big changes.”

Ofelia Akofian added, “As a PSIA student, I was excited to find myself at the epicenter of global policy-making. Representing Armenia at such a massive event gave me a better understanding of what I should focus on in my future career and was an invaluable learning experience. I can’t overemphasize the importance of youth engagement in climate action, as it directly affects our generation. I hope to engage with like-minded young people around climate education in Armenia.”

Aleksandr Hakobyan had the opportunity to speak at a youth panel at the European Union (EU) Pavilion, primarily discussing the challenges countries are facing with regard to water and climate change. He also challenged EU policymakers with a few questions on their approach to climate change. Others joining the discussion were from Youth for Nature, European Youth Energy Network, and a Fair Trade Youth Ambassador who also raised issues and questions on extractive industries, sustainable energy, and rural communities in developing countries. The video of the panel discussion where Hakobyan took the floor is available on the EU Climate Action YouTube channel

Upon return to Armenia, Amirkhanian wrapped up in these words: “The AUA Acopian Center is happy to have sponsored and organized this trip for AUA students. We look forward to engaging more students in the coming years in important global environmental discussions, debates, and actions. This will be a tenet of the new degree program in Environment and Sustainability we plan to offer in the coming two years.”

(l-r) Hayrapet Hakobyan, Anna Mazmanyan, Lilit Minasyan, Alen Amirkhanian, Ofelia Akopyan, Aleksandr Hakobyan, Nane Khachikyan, Nouneh Zastoukhova

(l-r) Hayrapet Hakobyan (UNDP and RA Min of Env), Anna Mazmanyan (RA Min of Env), Lilit Minasyan (RA Min of Env), Alen Amirkhanian (AUA), Ofelia Akofian (AUA), Aleksandr Hakobyan (AUA), Nane Khachikyan (AUA), and Nouneh Zastoukhova (RA MFA). There were other members of the delegation who were not available at the time the photo was taken.

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia, promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.