COP26 observer Manasi Mulay

COP26 observer interview: Manasi Mulay

How is COP26 like cutting a cake? COP26 observer and Grantham Scholar Manasi Mulay explains how in this interview. Plus how her research into water pollution mitigation is related to climate change.

Manasi Mulay is from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. Her research looks at advanced water treatment techniques for pollution caused by industrial, agricultural and domestic wastewater. You can keep up with Manasi through her water conservation Twitter account. If you want to find out more from our other COP26 observers, then read our interviews with them.

Why do you want to go to COP?

Representing the University of Sheffield and Grantham Centre at COP26 gives me a platform to showcase, communicate, and network with potential collaborators.

Plus I’ve followed updates about COP26 for a long time because I am interested in the impact of climate change on a range of stakeholders. Now I get to witness the official negotiations to address these at COP. It’s like a cake cutting ceremony – who gets what and how much they are willing to contribute for their portion? Of course the ’emissions cake’ is being exchanged with the carbon offsetting activities!

Who are you most looking forward to hearing from?

World leaders and the youth! And the talks on energy and nature. I would have loved to see a day dedicated to water. There is going to be a water pavilion at COP26, so I will be going to see what they’re doing.

Also I am keen to go to learn aspects of climate change beyond my research area.

What is good about COP?

The good thing is that we the society are aware of the climate crisis and are addressing the issue via COP. It is amazing to see businesses join the race to zero! Bringing together various stakeholders like policymakers, governments, universities, researchers, and industries from diverse backgrounds makes COP unique.

What is bad about COP?

Every process has its limitations. As such, climate change cannot be solved just at the COP venue. Efforts to address climate change should continue beyond the COP at every level of the pyramid, including at the individual level.

I think many people are still not aware of the climate emergency and that something like COP is happening and why. So we can’t leave the discussions from COP in Glasgow: we need to take the message to every individual level in society.

Are you hopeful COP will cause meaningful change?

Every small step towards the global net-zero goal counts. But it can only be achieved when everyone from society is determined or at least aware of the crisis. Because we only have 1.5 degrees margin for global warming. Really, can we stick to it? It scares me.

COP is a mediator and a catalyst that drives people to address the issue NOW!! If everyone attending COP could act as a messenger of the Sustainable Development Goals, it would help them reach the maximum number of people. And then real action could begin from choices in everyday life, such as switching to renewables, low emissions transport, reducing, recycling and reusing, and more.

A climate-vigilant society could sustainability-check products and act as a driving force for a climate-resilient economy. Sounds fantastic, but it might be a fantasy! Let’s see what the future brings.

How does your work relate to the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis?

I am a materials science engineer working in the computational chemistry domain. Materials science can fine-tune the structure and properties of materials in order to enhance the performance of the system whereas computational simulations predict these properties.

My multidisciplinary research finds applications in clean water, renewable energy storage and electric mobility that address aspects of the climate crisis. Because of climate change, conscious efforts are necessary to reduce the carbon footprints associated with rapidly growing human demands, particularly in the water-food-energy nexus.

Thus, researchers are coming forward to develop new technologies to address the environmental challenges, plus providing environmentally benign alternatives to existing carbon-expensive technology and infrastructure.

If you want more from our observers at COP26, then you find them all here: Grantham Centre at COP26

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For more on COP26 observer Manasi Mulay, check out her profile page.