New Collegian Changing The Climate

Saturday 5 January, 2008
by New College Admin
Alumnus Dr Stephen Cornelius makes a contribution to climate change.

Alumnus Dr Stephen Cornelius (New College 1993-1995) participated in the December 2007 UN Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali. Employed by the British Government he is involved in International climate change negotiations. Here he updates us on his contribution.

From New College to Bali

Friends from New College days – for me twelve years ago now – can have a profound impact on our lives. I attribute my current job, working in international climate change negotiations for the British Government, to a reunion with a dozen or so New Collegians around Oxford in the spring of 2004. I’d been looking for a new job and a chat with Jo Halliday (New College 1996-1997) eventually led to us being colleagues at the UK Environment Ministry (Defra) working on climate change mitigation.

I left Australia with my brand-new passport straight after completing a Chemical Engineering degree at UNSW – the option of working in a mine in the middle of Western Australia didn’t appeal as much as further study overseas. Over the next three years I completed a PhD on modelling and control of pollution from cars at the Control Engineering Department of Cambridge University. I then worked for three years as an automotive engineering consultant in the UK and Japan – mainly designing computer models of car exhaust systems. It was then I had a few drinks in Oxford and everything changed because of my New College network.

Currently my main role is to support the negotiations on further action under the Kyoto Protocol and as such I was part of the UK delegation at the 2007 United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali. For me there were two highlights of the Bali conference, the first was hearing Kevin Rudd announce Australia was ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. I believe that Australia has done the right thing in committing to the Kyoto Protocol – it is important for developed countries to show leadership – only this way will we build enough trust for developing countries to take on stronger and binding commitments of their own. The second was being in the room in the drama-filled final (extra) day as the agreement to negotiate the followon of the Kyoto Protocol over the next two years finally came together after the delegate from Papua New Guinea told the United States to lead or get out of the way.

Working in climate change is challenging and exciting. The current media spotlight in the UK means I’m working in the most topical and talked about area in the country – it also means there is never a time to rest. I’ve been involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since starting at Defra and so was excited when the organisation was jointly awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore (according to our Minister I can claim a tiny fraction of it). I represented the UK at IPCC meetings last year to agree on the “summary for policy-makers” of the Fourth Assessment Report with all the other IPCC member countries (if you want to know more about climate change then read this report).

2008 will be important and exciting in the world of climate change – the main task is to work on the so called Bali Action Plan to determine what the second commitment under the Kyoto Protocol will look like. It seems that returning to Australia is still a couple of years off (as it has been now for the last seven).