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Global WarmingMock Climate Negotiations Give Students a Global Perspective

Mock Climate Negotiations Give Students a Global Perspective

Mock Climate Negotiations Give Students a Global Perspective

Rex Koenig
|December 13, 2022

students gathered in a classroom with flags on the wall

Photo: Sofia Garcia-George

As I entered my classroom, world flags were hung from the partitions and our professor pounded a gavel. It was time for our mock UN climate change negotiations.

Although our class, Environmental Policy and Governance, focuses on domestic environmental politics within the US, that day we were learning about global environmentalism. Our professor, the Climate School’s own Lisa Dale, was one in every of Columbia University’s delegates to the United Nations’ twenty seventh Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt. The conference convenes global leaders to spur climate motion. She designed this class activity to assist us understand the worldwide conversations on climate change that were occurring at COP27 and at large.

The activity was easy. Professor Dale assigned us roles representing the USA, the European Union, China, India and a few developing countries. As well as, just a few of us had special roles as a climate activist, a fossil fuel industry lobbyist, and a Green Climate Fund representative. We each had two fundamental goals. The primary was to serve the interests of our country or special interest group, and the second was to collectively limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Professor Dale had us all introduce ourselves, gave us 20 minutes to barter, after which tallied up our emissions reductions to see if we had achieved the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. As we might all discover, the activity proved more complex than we had anticipated. It forced us to think from global perspectives.

students working together

Photo: Sofia Garcia-George

While all of us desired to see 1.5 degrees Celsius easily achieved, we couldn’t just wave a magic wand. We needed to represent our constituencies first, and in consequence, 1.5 degrees Celsius became a far more difficult goal. The scholars representing the USA, European Union, and China were quick to defend their countries’ reliance on fossil fuels. The scholars representing India and other developing countries questioned why they need to reduce emissions in any respect when the developed world was liable for a lot of the world’s carbon emissions. These developing nations also suggested that they should have the opportunity to extend carbon emissions as they pursue a better lifestyle. Moreover the developing nations who shall be hardest hit by climate change sought financial compensation from the high-emitting developed nations. Contributions to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund helped with this, but didn’t fully solve the issue.

Because the activity progressed, we refined our negotiation strategies by appealing to the interests of every participant. The climate activist argued that increasingly refugees will seek asylum in the USA and European Union under current warming scenarios, and that climate motion was really of their self interest. The Green Climate Fund advocate used the same argument, saying that contributions to the Green Climate Fund now will finance the needed adaptation to ameliorate such refugee crises. The European Union, looking to cut back its emissions, agreed to further finance the Green Climate Fund if the contributions preserved forest and counted as carbon offsets.

students working together in classroom

Photo: Sofia Garcia-George

When the activity ended, we plugged within the numbers to a world warming calculator, and we got here inside the ballpark of two.0 degrees Celsius. We were all disillusioned, but we now understood why 1.5 degree Celsius is a difficult global goal. By negotiating with our different constituencies, we gained a more global perspective on the climate crisis. We walked away less quick to point fingers and more more likely to listen.

The Columbia Climate School goals to “educate future leaders for just and prosperous societies on a healthy planet.” As a way to think on that planet-wide basis, we’d like global perspectives to be integrated into that education. Activities akin to a mock UN climate negotiation are good examples of effective educational tools, and I encourage educators to make use of similar strategies. If emerging climate leaders can think globally and act locally, I actually have the hope that we will solve the climate crisis.

Rex Koenig is an undergraduate majoring in Sustainable Development at Columbia University.


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