This year’s official Georgetown delegation to the UN climate talks in Madrid included five SFS graduate students.
The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) was held in Madrid, Spain in December 2019.
Eric Britton (MSFS ‘20), Charlotte Carstens (MAGES ‘20), Jennifer Grosman Fernández (MSFS ‘21), Tra Hoang (MASIA ‘20) and Hangyul Song (MSFS ‘20) attended the official negotiations and met with climate negotiators and key stakeholders from around the world.
All of the students were enrolled in MSFS 604:International Climate Policy and Diplomacy, taught by SFS professor and STIA Director Joanna Lewis. Lewis led the Georgetown delegation and accompanied the students to the negotiations. Lewis regularly brings students to observe the climate change negotiations; in the past she has brought students to observe the negotiations in Copenhagen, Doha, Paris, Marrakesh, Bonn, and Katowice.
Students covered several aspects of the negotiations, including climate finance, climate and gender, nature-based solutions, subnational and private-sector leadership, community-based solutions, and global youth’s increasing role in the climate conversation.
“Witnessing the negotiations in-person was a spectacular opportunity,” said Britton. “Every day we had the chance to hear from well-known policymakers, activists, and global thought-leaders like Al Gore and Greta Thunberg, as well as learn about new research from leading scientists and think tanks from all corners of the world. The COP was definitely an experience I’ll always remember and draw on in my academic and professional career.”
COP25 was widely reported as a particularly contentious meeting, and the students witnessed first-hand the challenge of collective action and international diplomacy. According to Song, “The highlight of the trip was sitting in on the plenary session at the end of the COP25” when the negotiations failed to reach agreement on several key issues. Despite the impasse, Carstens remarked how “the best-practice sharing occurring at the COP was an inspiring reminder that collective climate action remains very much alive and well, on many different levels and in myriad manifestations.”
Several of the students reflected on how this experience has influenced their career decisions. Song said that “attending COP25 challenged me to reassess how I should utilize my training at Georgetown to make a positive difference in the global scale.” Grosman Fernández, who plans to pursue a career in climate policy, said that she “gained an invaluable understanding of emerging approaches to mainstreaming gender considerations into climate strategies to leverage innovative solutions from women around the globe.”
In partnership with the Georgetown Climate Center and the University of Montreal, Georgetown University organized an official side event on transportation emissions in North America.” Speakers from California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Quebec discussed efforts underway in US states and Canadian provinces to reduce transportation emissions.