The University of Maryland, organized by CGS and the UMD Global Sustainability Initiative, had a strong presence at this year’s 23rd meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Engagements across the two weeks included a delegation of faculty and students, two panel events, and an exhibit space. CGS director Nate Hultman, who led the UMD delegation, noted that “this COP was focused on how the international community will develop procedures to implement the Paris Agreement, including provisions on reporting and transparency, and also on the next steps for the process to assess progress toward national goals. Our presence at the COP was focused on how we as a research and educational institution can support those processes and develop future leaders.”
Held in Bonn, Germany, from November 6 to 17 under the presidency of the government of Fiji, COP23 had the objective of making progress for a “successful, inclusive and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement”. In the conference’s Bula zone, where the formal negotiations took place, Dr. Robert Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy, participated in his capacity as special adviser on climate change to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Members of the University of Maryland delegation also participated, as part of the constituency of Research and Independent Non-governmental Organizations (RINGOs), as observers of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) meetings, contributing to unofficial summaries of the sessions to inform the larger global research community of COP23 outcomes.
CGS further facilitated two events as part of its role supporting non-governmental engagement in COP23. CGS co-organized a side event on “The World in 2050 (TWI2015)” in collaboration with The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia (UNIVE) and Future Earth International. The event discussed how the TWI2015 initiative aims to address a broad spectrum of transformational challenges related to the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with an integrated systems approach. CGS Director Dr. Hultman discussed the importance of integrating national SDG, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), and Long Term Strategy (LTS) processes with enhanced research capacity.
Additionally, CGS organized an event for the US Climate Action Center pavilion, called “The Engine of Ambition: University Research and Engagement to Support Climate Action,” moderated by Prof. Hultman. The panel, which featured scholars from Harvard University, Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University, discussed the unique and vital role that universities have in building the analytical capacity toward a 2C pathway, and how this will require new collaborative models across multiple stakeholder groups and all levels of government.
Attending the COP provided participating students an opportunity to learn first-hand about the negotiating process. “As someone studying Public Policy and International Development, attending the COP was an exciting opportunity to explore the linkages between environmental policy, economic development, and international security,” said Ariana Scurti, first year Master of Public Policy (MPP) Student. “It is important to remember that the discussion of human dignity should remain at the forefront of these policies as officials explore the best paths for sustainable development. COP23 offered the chance to engage with these topics through events like ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Transformative Climate Solutions’ and ‘Addressing Climate Change for a World Free of Hunger, Malnutrition and Poverty.’ I look forward to continuing my education on these topics throughout my time here at the School of Public Policy and beyond.”
Recent MPP graduate Luting Jin attended last year’s COP in Marrakesh as well as this year’s in Bonn. “It was an amazing experience being at the COPs,” she said. “After the close of the last negotiation session, I talked to a gentleman sitting next to me, who happened to be the lead negotiator of Slovenia. He not only answered my questions regarding the negotiation process but also explained to me how the EU coordinates its negotiation process throughout the year for the Conference.” SPP Master’s student Taoyu Liu added, “Being able to attend the negotiation sessions allowed me to experience the real dynamics of the international climate policy process. I gained different perspectives from policy makers, scientists, business leaders, and grassroots activists on various issues revolving around climate change.”
CGS and the UMD Global Sustainability Initiative (GSI) also hosted an exhibit space at the conference that highlighted university research and education for the international sustainability community gathered at the conference. GSI Program Manager James Stillwell noted, “COP23 was a fantastic opportunity to share UMD’s broad and deep commitment to climate and sustainability scholarship with the world -- from cutting-edge modelling of the long-term effects of countries’ Paris pledges, to anthropological studies of local and indigenous cultures’ central role in preserving a healthy biosphere, to the University’s ‘walking the talk’ through aggressive emissions reductions under its Climate Action Plan. One moment we were showcasing the results of CGS’s recent report on climate risk in the Maryland state pension system, the next we were highlighting a play submitted by an Arts and Humanities professor about the human effects of climate-related extreme weather events. Our new Global Sustainability Initiative could not come along at a better time, as our campus joins together to fund even more ambitious and cross-disciplinary research, education, and global impact projects around climate and sustainability. I can hardly wait to see what exciting new collaborations our engagement at next year’s COP will feature and carry forward.”
CGS and the broader university community will continue to engage with the climate negotiations and other policy processes. “The next big events will be the California climate summit in mid-2018, COP24 in late 2018, and the assessment processes in 2019 leading up to new commitments by countries. We will continue to work with the broader community to develop research and educational engagements that can better integrate the analytical community with these important policy activities.”