Climate Action, Student Field Research

Student reflections on attending the UNFCCC/COP

As an Emory student attending the UNFCCC/COP, the experience is multi-faceted. For some, it is a life-changing experience. For others, it affirms their academic and career interest working to continue the important work of addressing climate change. And for others, it gives them an opportunity to present research to an international audience. Whatever the takeaway, students are changed when they return from the experience.

We invite you to learn more about the experience of attending the UNFCCC/COP through the student reflections offered here and through the platforms created by the various delegations:

COP 25 Delegation (2019)

COP 24 Delegation (2018)

COP 23 Delegation (2017)

COP 22 Delegation (2016)

COP 21 Delegation (2015)


By Geoff Martin (G’17), MS in Environmental Sciences

As a graduate student in environmental sciences focused on climate and energy policies, attending COP was a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness firsthand international climate negotiations and hear from experts from around the world. This was not only an incredibly exciting and valuable personal experience, but also strengthened my graduate research and helped me grow professionally. For my graduate research, I evaluated the effectiveness of state-level policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. At COP I got to hear directly from state regulators about the efforts they were pursuing, the commitments they were making, and how important they viewed state-level action in the fight against climate change. Hearing from these top-level state authorities strengthened and reinforced for me the relevancy of my research in the context of global climate change. Going to COP also forced me to get out of my comfort zone. The COP is an unparalleled networking opportunity, and networking is something that I dread. Yet with more than a few gentle nudges from my advisor, by the end of COP I was connecting with other professionals, and received a number of business cards that proved to be valuable for my research. I also gained experience communicating my research at COP when I got to present at a side event and discuss my preliminary findings with the professionals and academics that visited our booth. Overall, I can confidently say that attending COP22 was the greatest privilege that I had as a graduate student, and is something that other students interested in climate change should have the opportunity to experience in the future.



Emory University COP21 delegates Mae Bowen 16C and Savannah Miller 16C meet primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall

Mae Bowen 16C

There is only so much you can learn about the process of negotiating an international agreement from a textbook. Attending the COP expanded my knowledge of the painstaking process of crafting these treaties. My appreciation for this process changed my entire academic and professional trajectory. I’ve always known that I wanted to enter public service and protect the environment, but this invaluable experience convinced me to enter law school on my way to combatting climate change on an international scale. It was truly inspiring to see that 195 nations, despite immeasurable differences, could come together and make progress on an issue which many believe to be impossible to fix. Now, I have hope.


Taylor McNair 16B

COP21 in Paris was undoubtedly the defining experience of my Emory education. The opportunity I received to meet and engage with academics, activists, business leaders, and politicians across the world had a profound impact on my post-graduation plans, and gave me the drive and resources to pursue opportunities in the cleantech industry.