Climate change competition launches at IFI: An interview with Nadim Farajallah, Director of the Climate Change and Environment Program

Marina El Mufti
Contributing Writer

In celebration of the World Day for Combating Desertification and Land Degradation, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs launched an interdisciplinary climate change and land competition. The launch involved a panel discussion at the International Beirut Energy Forum. Outlook held an interview with Director of the Climate Change and Environment Program, Nadim Farjallah, Ph.D, to find out more about the competition.

Can you please provide a brief background of the competition?

“The Climate Change and Environment program at IFI has been working on climate issues for 10 years now. We have realized that the students at AUB haven’t done much work on climate change. Therefore, in the spirit of celebrating the world day for combating desertification and land degradation, we collaborated with the [United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)], and started thinking how we can engage the student community. We thought why not launch a competition that would attract students to the topic and give them some pocket money, which they can spend any way they like, and promote research. This way we will be raising awareness. However, we needed funding , so we talked to Banque Libano Francaise (BLF). They were really helpful and signed an agreement to fund the project.”

What is the competition about?

“The competition will be looking at the interaction between land and climate. Meaning, how does climate change affect the land and how does any kind of work on land use change deforestation, agriculture, urban sprawl, etc. We are looking at how it impacts climate change and how it is impacted by climate change. That’s why we opened the competition to all disciplines for all graduate students, and we encouraged the approach to have it as an interdisciplinary research.

What are you looking for in the proposals?

“It shouldn’t be more 1,500 words. It should show an understanding of the topic. It should be interdisciplinary. It should be innovative. It should have policy relevance, and it should set achievable goals. The report should be specific to the region and has to touch the issues of climate change and land.”

Is the competition limited to graduate students?

“Yes it is, because we need the commitment from a professor to oversee this work.  The competition is assumed to be a one-student-show, but it can involve a team as well. If there is a graduate student and an undergraduate, the graduate has to apply for it and we will probably accept the combination, if the proposal is good.”

What are the prizes?

“The 1st [place] prize is $2,000$, the 2nd is $1,500, and the 3rd is $1,000. This goes directly to the students and they could spend it whichever way they like.”

Why is climate change research considered difficult?

“Climate change research is difficult because it is a slow process and takes time to reflect on land. Students can be inspired by work done outside the region and figure out how it’s applicable to Lebanon and the region.  However, the proposal has to be different, our committee will be well-versed in the topic to know its level of innovation.”

Who is the committee composed of?

“The committee is composed of scholars, people from the ministry of environment, and from the private sector. The private sector being because there is a business component to the project. We can bring in investors, such as insurance companies; look at California now, it’s burning and you need some insurance so companies might set up business plans to support insurance coverages.”

What is the next step after the three winning proposals are chosen?

“We expect the winning 3 students to either present their findings at a conference that we will put in here at IFI, or to get our students to go to the climate change negotiation meeting in Warsaw next year. We will fly them there and we would hopefully have a side event dedicated to the topic of climate change and land, so that they can present their work. BLF would fund this travel for the 3 winners.”

When is the deadline for the submission of proposals?

“November 18 is the deadline for the proposals. A month later we will declare the winners. In September 2018, we want a draft research paper from each of the three winners. In December we want the final draft and we will then publish it on our website. If it’s a thesis we pay half first and half later.”

For more information on the Climate Change competition, visit: http://www.aub.edu.lb/ifi/Documents/Library/Files/20170919_blf_student_competition.pdf

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