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Prof. Patrick Verkooijen on Climate Adaptation Governance: “We will train the global leaders of tomorrow”

14 December 2020
Prof. dr. Patrick Verkooijen
Prof. dr. Patrick Verkooijen

In May, Patrick Verkooijen was appointed Professor by special appointment of Climate Adaptation Governance at Campus Fryslân and the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen. As CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), he is committed to adapting to climate change by helping governments and the business community implement solutions.

By Gerard de Jong

The face of the GCA is former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon. As chair of the board he works closely with Patrick Verkooijen and praised his appointment. “I am incredibly honoured to hold this chair, named after Ban Ki-moon. But, of course, it’s not about me. It’s about the research and educational activities in the area of Climate Adaptation Governance and I fully expect this to be a great success,” says Verkooijen resolutely. “This is a major step for academic developments in climate adaptation. The foundations have already been laid: excellent colleagues, enthusiastic students and solid support from the University’s leaders. Now it’s up to us to make the best of it.”

On the 25th of January the Advanced Certificate Course on Climate Adaptation Governance will start, a series of free online courses and a Summer School. In addition, as from the 2021-2022 academic year, students will be able to follow a specialization in Climate Adaptation Governance, which will form part of the Master’s degree programme in Cultural Geography. The Advanced Certificate Course and the MSc Cultural Geography with a specialization in Climate Adaptation Governance are coordinated by UG/CF assistant professor in Governance & Innovation dr. Karsten Schulz.

Double-edged sword

Anyone who talks to Patrick Verkooijen is struck by a compelling sense of urgency. Verkooijen, who grew up in Emmen, has seen enough of the world to be convinced of climate change. In 2005 he worked for the UN in Darfur, and until 2018 he was a Special Envoy on Climate at the World Bank. He has also been a professor in Boston for ten years. “Dealing with climate change is a double-edged sword: we need to drastically reduce our emissions, but we also need the world to adapt and prepare for future climate changes, which will be even more serious in both their nature and scale than what we see happening around us today. Adaptation doesn’t mean giving up the fight against global warming, but, on the contrary, being prepared for what is to come, so that sustainable development isn’t undermined. You can’t have one without the other.”

Verkooijen sees the coronavirus pandemic as both a warning and an opportunity. “It is precisely during this COVID-19 period that climate adaptation is of the utmost importance. The climate isn’t an isolated issue; it’s related to every aspect of life. A COVID-19 reset is a great opportunity to pursue a green recovery, so that current investment measures actually contribute towards the required transformation.”

Ban Ki-moon’s visit

In the week of 22 January 2021, the Netherlands will host the GCA Climate Adaptation Summit. All being well, Ban Ki-moon will travel to Leeuwarden on 23 January. In the meantime, Global Responsibility & Leadership students will be tackling the issue of adaptation. “On 25 January, their results will be presented in Rotterdam to world leaders such as Macron, Merkel and Rutte, people who can make a difference. The students have the opportunity to initiate a movement, which is incredibly exciting and inspiring.”

Verkooijen will consider the Climate Adaptation Summit a success if it accelerates efforts in several areas. “Because things are moving too slowly. As things currently stand, we’re not going to hit the Paris targets. But at the same time a lot of progress is being made, for example in the energy transition and the financial sector, where climate risks are increasingly being taken into account in investment decisions. That change is already happening. The whole system will have to change, but that’s no longer a pipe dream. Now more than ever, it’s the next generation of students who will be able to make a difference.”

This article originally appeared in Connect winter 2020.

Last modified:16 December 2020 10.07 a.m.
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