Ratified in 1992, the UNFCCC is the first global treaty addressing climate change, which created this body and meets yearly to discuss progress and take bold action. The Kyoto Protocol and more recent Paris Agreement are other landmark treaties that have come out of these annual meetings. Emory has sent delegations to the COP since 2015: COP21 in Paris, France (2015), COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco (2016), COP23 in Bonn, Germany (2017), and COP24 in Katowice, Poland (2018).
Emory is one of only 50 American universities with official observer status at the COP each year. Emory and Duke University are the only schools representing the southeastern United States. As not only a peer of these schools, but a top institution for public health, scientific research, and law, Emory is a valuable addition to the RINGO (Research Institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations) constituency at the UNFCCC. After only two years attending the COP, Emory has gained new research partnerships and ideas, presented our research to large international audiences, and made connections with NGOs, businesses, and policymakers.
Some schools send their faculty and researchers to collaborate and present their work. Others send graduate students working on specific climate-related projects. A smaller group still, including Emory for the past two years, focuses on creating a unique growth experience geared toward mostly undergraduate students. Some of these student delegations collaborate on one large research project, while others task each student with producing a report on a specific issue at the conference. Emory has taken a flexible and creative approach, by allowing students to propose individual projects based on their interests. The course offered in the Fall semester prepares students for the upcoming climate negotiation and delegations will have ample opportunity to take action on climate change after their trip on Emory campus and in Atlanta communities. Emory recruits an academically diverse group of students, with past delegation members having studied environmental sciences, creative writing, economics, business administration, political science, anthropology, music, sociology, law, history, and more.
As part of the Emory COP delegation and related initiatives, participating students, partake in a year-long interdisciplinary course which emphasizes collaboration, science and policy knowledge, communication skills, and community advocacy. Taylor McNair 16B explains why the course was meaningful to him: “Our projects leading up to Paris gave me the chance to talk to some of Atlanta’s leading climate experts. And our class post-COP had the exciting opportunity to engage all of Emory’s campus in meaningful and transformative climate discussions and action. All of this occurred with the most diverse group of students, in terms of backgrounds and academic interests, that I have had the opportunity to work with during my four years at Emory.” -Taylor McNair 16B
We believe that opportunities like this should not be limited to those students with the means to finance an overseas trip. We aim to build delegations that are diverse in terms of socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, research interests, and other aspects of background and identity. This emphasis creates an eye-opening experience for the students and faculty involved as well as ensures that we are showcasing the best Emory has to offer. We believe that any student, should they be passionate about combating climate change and qualified to participate, should have the opportunity to represent Emory on the world stage with this opportunity.