Leeds sends first undergraduate student to COP


Amid extreme weather and record-breaking temperatures, world leaders are gathering in Dubai for the COP28 summit.

They will be joined by nine University of Leeds delegates, including – for the first time – an undergraduate student. 

Vaibhav Pramode Nair is studying Sustainability and Environmental Management at the School of Earth and Environment. 

“This is the first time in the history of the university that an undergraduate is travelling as part of the COP delegation, so it's a massive privilege,” he said. “It's a career defining moment to be able to travel to COP and have those networks to interact with people at the forefront. There is a massive responsibility as well as an onus.” 

COP28 is the 28th annual United Nations (UN) climate meeting, taking place from 30 November to 12 December. Governments are facing renewed and vociferous calls to negotiate and take decisive action to manage the impact of climate change. 

The University of Leeds is an official observer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which underpins COP28. The Leeds delegation will be involved in events and activities across the two weeks, with another 15 representatives attending as online delegates.

Vaibhav is heavily involved with the topics of soil revitalisation and land degradation and is a youth voice and advocate of the Save Soil movement. He was recently awarded the Laidlaw Scholarship for Undergraduate Research and Leadership

When we talk about climate, we don't think of soil, which is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet.”

Vaibhav Pramode Nair

Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Vaibhav’s family are from Kerala in Southern India – giving him a truly global perspective on climate issues. 

In 2022, he was part of a team that raised awareness of the plight of the Cauvery river basin in southern India. 

He said: “We went to meet farmers whose crops weren't yielding because the river basin was drying up. Everything is a statistic until you go and meet the farmer and they're weeping. It's a matter of life and death. That was a defining moment in terms of my personal perception.” 

Vaibhav has pinpointed three key areas for focus at this year’s COP summit: finance, soil health and skills. 

He said the biggest impediment in previous COPs has been reaching an agreement on finance. 

“I feel like for this COP already, there's a big voice for changing financial systems, getting the financial flows in place, easing loans to developing, struggling countries in terms of adaptation and mitigation,” he added. 

He argues that improving soil conditions is the single biggest solution in our fight against climate change.  

“There's ample scientific evidence to back this, but it's been heavily neglected in past climate talks. When we talk about climate, we don't think of soil, which is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet. So I really look forward to some concrete agreements on soil laws. 
“The third point is how do we upskill the workforce existing today to be engaged and equipped for the green transition?”

Vaibhav and his fellow Leeds delegates will be hoping to join the debate around this – and other big questions – over the coming days. 

Further Information

For further information, please contact Richard Abbott in the University of Leeds press office.