ASTANA – A Nazarbayev University student has won an essay contest for Kazakh students sponsored by a collective of European embassies meant to raise awareness and encourage collective work to combat climate change. The essay contest was part of a joint Climate Diplomacy Day initiative sponsored by the EU delegation to Kazakhstan and the embassies of Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. in Astana.
Nazarbayev University student Aizhan Abilgazina received her award during a June 11 ceremony at the EU office in Astana after stressing in her essay that the Earth is “our common home,” that “no man is an island” and that climate change mitigation actions can only succeed by tackling challenges collectively. Akmaral Zhakypova, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, took second place and Shalkar Nurseitov, a George Washington University student, took third, according to a June 17 press release from the EU delegation.
“Two issues will be at the core of the international agenda in the 21st century: migration and climate change,” said Ambassador of Spain to Kazakhstan Manuel Larrotcha Parada, announcing one of the winners at the award ceremony. “Tackling global warming and climate change, and trying to mitigate their negative effects, is the shared responsibility of all of us to ensure a better world for our children and for the children of our children. The very first step is to raise awareness on the need to take urgent action,” he said, the EU delegation reported.
The Climate Diplomacy Day essay contest, announced on May 18, was open to 18-23 year old students on the topic “Tackling Climate Change: Reasons for Global Involvement and the Importance of My Role.” Dozens of entries were received, according to the EU delegation, and judged by an assessment panel. Ten finalists were invited to the award ceremony, which was also attended by Larrotcha Parada, head of the European Union Delegation Aurelia Bouchez, Belgian Ambassador Michel Peetermans, German Ambassador Guido Herz, French Ambassador Francis Etienne and British Ambassador Carolyn Browne.
In her address to the finalists, Ambassador Browne said she was delighted to see so many young Kazakhs taking part in the competition. “In order to tackle climate change, we need to have not only the support of governments, but the support and engagement of society as a whole. Even if you have only just learned about the reality of climate change, it’s your first, important step toward a better and a more secure future,” she said, the EU reported.
The EU release noted that 2015 is a crucial year for the climate as the international community prepares to adopt a new global climate deal in Paris in December. Bouchez said preventing dangerous climate change is an EU priority. The EU is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020 and by 40 percent by 2030, and its long-term goals is to bring emissions down by 80-95 percent compared to 1990 levels. “Europe is working hard to cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially while encouraging other nations and regions to do likewise,” the head of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan said.
Other ambassadors discussed efforts necessary for a successful Paris Conference of Parties in the EU release. Peetermans stressed that all countries must submit contributions ahead of the conference in order to design a deal capable of keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 C. Etienne told the students that nations’ contributions need to be as ambitious as possible. “As France will host and preside [over] the 21st Session of the Conference on Climate Change in Paris, the largest international conference ever held in our country, the combat against climate change is the top priority of French diplomacy in 2015. Our goal is to manage to reach a universal climate agreement enabling us to limit effectively global warming.” Herz echoed that climate change and migration must be tackled in tandem.
Climate Diplomacy Day is an activity agreed upon at the EU level, following the first action last December, organised by Germany, France and the U.K. The day aims to highlight positive actions on climate change begin taken around the globe as well as to encourage joint discussion and action, the EU said.