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Students Increasing Awareness of Climate Change Negotiations

On October 22, Washington University Students for International Collaboration on the Environment (WUSICE) presented the second annual Washington University Climate Change Negotiations (WUCCN). During the event, around thirty WashU undergraduate students, law students, and students and staff from other universities participated in a simulation of the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP). Each student took on the role of a party of the UNFCCC and negotiated a sample working paper. The paper was meant to resemble a treaty that may arise from the 22nd COP, which will take place November 7-18 in Marrakech, Morocco. Six WashU students will travel to Morocco for the negotiations along with two WashU faculty members, Beth Martin and Anu Hittle.

During the mock negotiations, students gained an understanding about how the UNFCCC and COP operate. Specifically, the negotiations focused on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of country parties. The Paris Agreement, put into action during last year’s COP, requires all countries to publish and commit to NDCs. The goal of having each party submit an NDC is to have each member commit to making sustainable changes to combat climate change and keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. Students negotiated about what to include in NDCs and the responsibility that developed nations have to help developing nations construct their NDCs.

Beth Martin, senior lecturer of Environmental Studies, and Rachel Westrate, a WashU alumna, each presented at the beginning of the event to inform participants about the UNFCCC and negotiating text. Martin and Westrate also spoke about their experiences as attendees at previous COP negotiations. Maisah Khan also attended as the keynote speaker. Khan serves as a Special Advisor in the immediate office of the Assistant Secretary in the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University.

This year’s WUCCN event was successful in increasing understanding about the intersection of international relations and environmental studies. This intersection has a significant effect on public policy.

To learn more about the UNFCCC and WashU’s student delegation, click here. You can also follow the student delegates at COP 22 via Facebook.

This article was written by Emma Waltman, a Climate Associate, and Ingrid Archibald, a Waste Associate.