Rubbing shoulders with decision-makers

Delegates from 194 nations met at the Doha Climate Change Conference to continue talks on measures that will determine the environmental future of our planet. And the students from the Tropical and International Forestry Master’s programme in Göttingen were there to witness it first-hand. As participants in the DAAD-sponsored workshop, the students sat in on the sixth annual Forest Day, a conference on the role of forests and their impacts on climate held in conjunction with the climate summit.

“We want our students to gain not only a scientific understanding of forests and climate change but a political one as well,” says Christoph Kleinn, Professor at the at the University of Göttingen’s Burckhardt Institute in the Forest Inventory and Remote Sensing Department. “A lecture format is simply unable to fully impart the individual country issues and interests that are at stake in the climate debate,” continues Kleinn. For this reason, Göttingen’s Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology organised the workshop – now in its third time running – parallel to the climate summit in Dubai and Qatar’s capital city of Doha.

The workshop had a total of 32 participants from 16 countries, including lecturers and students from Göttingen, seven of whom are DAAD scholarship holders, as well as guests from forest science programmes in Dresden, Freiburg and Munich who are part of DAAD’s Development-related Postgraduate Programme. Also invited to the event were four DAAD alumni scientists who work in China, Indonesia, Myanmar and South Africa in the area of forest management, each of whom were accompanied by a student.

The idea was to prepare the group for the sixth annual Forest Day event in Doha by meeting for an intensive three-day workshop held in a conference hotel in Dubai, where they engaged in in-depth discussion on forests and climate issues. The Forest Day conference draws 1,000 participants, many of whom are decision-makers in the larger context of the UN Climate Conference, to talk about the role of forests in carbon storage and emissions producer.

Unique in Germany – The Göttingen initiative
Göttingen’s initiative is the first and only programme in Germany to give a larger group of students the opportunity to get close to the climate talks. The students are first introduced to the topics at hand through initial events held in Göttingen. They prepare presentations for the workshop and later record and report on the results of the Forest Day conference. “Our students today might very well be the decision-makers of tomorrow,” says Christoph Kleinn. “It’s not too early for them to be thinking along these lines.”

The workshop also focuses on network building. All of the participants in DAAD’s Development-related Postgraduate Programme are academically trained young professionals from around the world. As such, they stand to benefit from interaction and exchange with one another. According to Kleinn, once again the workshop participants were “super pleased” with the make-up and mix of the group, with people coming from across disciplines, from different countries and with varying levels of work experience.