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Villanova to Officially Attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference for the First Time

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Members of the Villanova University community are getting prepared to attend the United Nations’ annual climate change conference, COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 through November 12. Deborah Seligsohn, PhD, assistant professor of Political Science, and Olivia Pfeiffer, ’22 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be the first official Villanova attendees at a COP event. Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, professor at the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, and co-director, Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment (Region 3 PEHSU), will also be representing Villanova as part of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments program. She will be presenting with along with other nurses, “A Global Nurse Agenda on Climate Justice during COP26.

Attendance at COP conferences are limited to official representatives of the UN countries and observers from non-governmental organizations, including colleges and universities, and businesses. For the first time, Villanova applied to be an observer this year and has been tentatively approved. A full approval will take place during the COP26 meetings.

“As Villanova moves towards its sustainability goals, this is the most important event on a global stage that we can be a part of,” says Seligsohn. “In the future, this will be a tremendous opportunity for our students and faculty to learn and hear from world leaders on climate and sustainability issues that they can bring back to campus to implement into their teaching, research and course work.”

Pfeiffer, a double major in Economics and Humanities with a minor in Sustainability, is excited to hear first-hand about the topics and issues she has dealt with in her professional experiences and learned about in the classroom.

“The businesses I’ve worked with in my sustainability consulting internships are making their decisions based off what happens at COP, and we’ve discussed those outcomes in my sustainability classes” she said. “Having the opportunity to hear directly from the sources at COP26 about gender and climate change issues will be powerful and insightful to shape my Honors senior thesis.”

McDermott-Levy attended COP24 in 2018 and presented at the Global Conference on Health and Climate Change, which is sponsored by the World Health Organization and held in conjunction with annual COP meetings.

“It is important for nurses to be involved with high-level climate change meetings to observe, advocate, and witness for the individuals, families, and communities that are experiencing or will experience the health impacts of climate change,” says McDermott-Levy. “It is critically important that health care providers learn about the health impacts of climate change, the co-benefits of climate change mitigation and engage with their health systems and communities to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

In keeping with its Augustinian Catholic tradition—which emphasizes service to, and care for, one’s community—Villanova integrates sustainability and respect for the earth into its curricula, scholarly research, academic and community events, and institutional policy and practice. To learn more about the University’s Sustainability Plan and other campus initiatives, click here.