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International Geographical Societies Gathered Online in Response to Climate Emergency
2022-01-12 15:39:10

Jointly organized by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) and the International Geographical Union (IGU), the International Geographical Societies Gathering was held online on June 22nd, 2021. Over 60 representatives from 30 world’s leading geographical societies joined the online discussion and provided their respective and collective responses to climate emergency in the run-up to COP15 in Kunming and COP26 in Glasgow later this year. The gathering of international geographical community discussed collaborative efforts to tackle climate change and the sustainable development goals. As a result, participants developed a joint statement and ideas for collaborations in the future.


Chief Executive of RSGS, Mike Robinson who devised the idea for the gathering welcomed the participants and reflected on the event “Scotland plays host to the world’s governments this November and we wanted to help play our part by convening our global network of sister organisations, to understand each other’s perspectives better, to seek greater collaboration and to use our collective leadership to build the understanding of solutions and commitment to action on this critical issue.”


The delegates from Italy, Israel, Russia, China, Ireland, Colombia, and Uganda introduced their work and shared their key projects and activities on climate change and SDGs. After their presentations, participants were invited to join group discussions under three different themes: education, research, and public engagement and policy. The subsequent discussions concerned what geography is doing right and what it could do differently. One topic that was particularly emergent throughout the day’s discussions was the interdisciplinary nature of geography, the advantage of which is a more complete understanding of the world, and of the effects of climate change, both human and physical, local and global. It was followed by provocations from several international speakers considering different perspectives on climate change. The provocations ultimately inspired second round discussions about the responsibility of geographical societies to seize opportunities for collaborations and how to share with and support each other. As a uniquely inter-disciplinary subject, geography provides insight into a broad scope of issues attributed to climate change, and its solutions.


Professor Joe Smith, Director of the Society, said: “The meeting captured the great scale and breadth of contribution to these key global challenges by geographers all over the planet across decades. Geography and geographical bodies have made a huge contribution to knowledge, engagement and action on biodiversity and climate change. But at the gathering we also provoked each other to stretch our ambitions, and commit to greater contributions in future.”


Professor Michael Meadows, President of the IGU, declared the conclusion of the gathering, commenting on the significance of the meeting: “Even as the global population reels in the face of the most serious health crisis in over a century, the climate crisis is affecting all of our lives. Geographers have a very special skillset in terms of teaching and research that can – and indeed must – be harnessed through the kind of cooperation that the international community of Geographical Societies is able to foster in order to help mitigate the myriad problems associated with human impact on the environment”.


Ahead of the biodiversity and climate change COPs later this year, the societies will release a joint statement on the issues discussed at the gathering.


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