Three Abu Dhabi masters students from the Masdar Institute are getting front-row seats at the Cop 21 climate change talks.
Noora Abdulrahman, Maryam Al Mazrouei and Mohammed Al Ghailani are in the French capital for the talks that could yet turn out to be historic if concrete policy agreements can be reached.
Ms Abdulrahman, who is researching 3-D printing,has been using the talks to look at what other major players in the renewables sector are working on.
"It's really an engaging time. Although my research was not really about renewables, being here is making me think about how I can use different sustainable materials in my research.”
The Emirati said that students, especially those stuck in science laboratories, sometimes failed to grasp the real-world applicability of what they were trying to achieve.
However, as part of the conference, entire sections, such as the Solutions Cop21, are dedicated to products, materials and research that are already having an effect on the global environment.
The students, who had been invited to the negotiation segments of the conference, soon found they were more eager to attend the sideline events to talk with fellow scientists.
The negotiations on the outcome of the talks, however, they found less useful.
"I really didn't expect them to spend so long discussing commas,” Ms Abdulrahman said. "I didn't realise there would be such debate on each word [of the agreement].”
Mr Al Ghailani said that the negotiations were a surprise – especially as protesters took to the streets claiming that the goal of reducing global warming by the proposed 2°C did not go far enough.
"Most of the people who are protesting or doing things on the streets, if they [the protesters] saw the negotiations they might have a heart attack.”
Despite this, some analysts had informed Mr Al Ghailani that a part of the negotiations revolved directly around his research topic – biofuels.
"This could make or break my future research because the UAE has two of the world's largest [airline] carriers. If future regulations are set for the aviation industry my research topic could transition from a concept to a requirement.”
Mr Al Ghailani said that seeing every aspect of where his research could apply allowed him to be a better scientist and gave him direction at this formative time in his career.
"When we go to panel talks, when we go to discussions, some of the topics are very interesting, others not so much. But this allows me to understand what I am not interested in and to know what's out there.”
Ms Al Mazrouei said that the students were taking every opportunity to learn what they could at the conference in hope that they might be able to contribute in future should they get the chance to represent the UAE.
"Talking to all these people and being introduced to all these ideas, I will take this back to my university and share it with the students. It will also help me update my research,” she said.
Source: The National