Han Zhiyuan: Joining the global fight against climate change

Editor’s Note:

During the 2021-2023 school years, 13 students from SIGS had opportunities to work with 10 UN organizations through participation in conferences, internships, or projects.

During these experiences, our students not only get the chance to gain global competence but also contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this installation of our SIGSers Go Global Series, we hear from Han Zhiyuan, a PhD student at SIGS, whose project addressing extreme heat in Vietnam was not only adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Copenhagen Climate Centre but also presented at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28).

“Climate change requires a broadened perspective and a deep understanding of various conditions across different countries and cultures,” said Han Zhiyuan, a PhD student in Environment Science and New Energy Technology. His research focuses on lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries, a next-generation energy storage system, that can be a part of the solution to sustainable energy. During his academic career, Zhiyuan has been determined to broaden his perspective beyond the technical.

In May 2023, Zhiyuan joined the United Nations University (Macau) Global Governance Talent Project, part of a career competency project supported by SIGS, as a project group leader. Zhiyuan led his group to address the challenges of extreme heat faced by Vietnam and proposed a solution. The group’s proposal uses new energy sources such as solar energy to replace existing thermal power and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons per year and generate revenue of US$270 million per year.

The project went on to receive the recommendation of their mentor and was adopted by the UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre in both written report and video form. The project also provided policy recommendations for Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Zhiyuan had the opportunity to present his results at COP 28, where they were exhibited at the Montreal Protocol and China pavilions.

Han Zhiyuan visiting the UN Headquarters in Geneva

After the success of the talent project, Zhiyuan couldn’t wait to learn more. In August 2023, he joined a Switzerland-based overseas social practice team sponsored by SIGS. The group visited the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland to delve deeper into the topic of climate change. On their trip, they also engaged with local Tsinghua alumni and students.

Han Zhiyuan and his group members developed a series of tools for public use to bring awareness to climate change

These exchanges inspired the group to create public engagement tools to encourage greater participation in climate change action, including a climate change communication manual, the creation of a "Carbon Cycle Puzzle," the development of a public carbon footprint calculation mini-program named "Carbon," and the launch of a climate change-themed board game.

Han Zhiyuan participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference

Zhiyuan’s previous experiences on the global stage laid the groundwork for his participation in COP 28 as a volunteer. Zhiyuan and the other volunteers, who were chosen based on their exceptional contributions to green and low-carbon development, planned, coordinated, and organized "Climate Connections: Unleashing Innovation for a Sustainable Future,” a sideline event at COP 28 initiated by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Zhiyuan’s time overseas has been integral in shaping his research approach; he emphasizes the practical application of theoretical knowledge in addressing real-world environmental issues. Zhiyuan said, “Going forward, I am inspired to continue my endeavors in the field of energy storage systems and contribute to the industrial upgrading of these technologies. I aim to play a significant role in building a new energy system for the nation and contributing to the global fight against climate change.


Compiled by Zhu Lijing, Zhao Mengyuan, Ye Sijia & Alena Shish

Photos by Han Zhiyuan

Edited by Alena Shish & Yuan Yang