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The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Glasgow from Sunday. As a precursor to this event, the UNESCO Youth Summit focussed on the global commitment of young people and their potential to get involved in the fight against climate change.

Eleanor Lewis and Reace Edwards joined with the University’s Professor Joe Howe to organise and host a panel looking at decarbonisation and exposing some common myths about hydrogen.

Eleanor, 23, from Bolton, graduated with a BSc in Geography from Chester two years ago, and is currently studying for a PhD in Industrial Decarbonisation Skills and Policy. Reace, 24, from Peterlee in County Durham, graduated from the University in 2018, with a first class degree in Chemical Engineering, and is currently studying for a PhD. They were encouraged to take part in the summit by their supervisor Professor Howe, Executive Director of the University’s Energy Research Institute at Thornton Science Park and Chair of the North West Hydrogen Alliance.

The discussion was led by Professor Howe and Rachel Perry, Project Manager, from Progressive Energy Ltd, about carbon capture, usage and storage and the hydrogen consortium of industry (HyNet) whose office is based at Thornton Science Park, with the University as academic lead. Eleanor and Reace acted as facilitators in the session.

Eleanor said: “When Professor Howe asked if I wanted to be involved naturally I jumped at the chance. I was offered this opportunity before I officially started my PhD and I still can't believe this was the first thing I got to be involved in! 

“Aside from hearing from Joe and Rachel, I think the best part was the preparation and just getting a feel for the magnitude of what we were doing. Being involved with something so important and so global right at the start of my career is something I will never forget.

“Taking part in this event taught me that you are never too young, or too early in your career to participate in important conversations about the climate and being able to encourage more younger people to be involved was great.”

Reace added: “I was amazed to be part of a global agenda which is so topical and significant! I’ve discussed COP26 throughout my thesis, but never thought I would have the opportunity to be part of it. The fact that it was at a Youth Summit was especially exciting as an early career researcher myself.

“The Q&A session of the panel explored a range of different conversation topics. Rachel and Joe were fantastic at answering difficult questions concerning the costs of decarbonisation, employment opportunities for young professionals as well as some slightly more specific questions surrounding hydrogen technologies.”

Almost 400 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 from 186 countries across the world joined ‘Youth4Climate 2021: Driving Ambition – COP26’ to address the main urgencies and priorities of climate action.

The event was organised by the Government in Italy in partnership with the UK. The delegates formed four working groups in thematic areas – driving youth ambition; sustainable recovery; non-state actors’ engagement and climate conscious society.

Professor Howe said: “I’m so pleased that Reace and Eleanor were able to take part in this workshop which took place on the international stage. We must work together across both the world and the generations on solutions to tackle climate change and this conference was an incredible example of that.”

Rachel Perry, HyNet Project Manager, Progressive Energy Ltd, said: “It was wonderful to see how much enthusiasm and passion Chester students have for the decarbonisation challenge. It’s critical that the younger generations continue to challenge the actions being taken to tackle climate change, and Eleanor and Reace set a great example for how others can learn more and get involved. The HyNet project benefits hugely from the partnership with the University of Chester and the support of both staff and students.”

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