At the United Nations’ upcoming Conference of the Parties, 11 Cornell students, including Arts and Sciences students Arden Podpora '23 and Eva Fenningdorf '23, will help delegations from specialized agencies and small countries gain a stronger voice. Better known as COP27, the annual conference ensures that countries meet global climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.
The undergraduate and graduate students, all taking Cornell’s Global Climate Change Science and Policy course in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), will travel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 6-18.
“I’ve been looking forward to taking this class since I was a freshman, with the hopes of attending the UN COP conference, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” said Rebecca Foody ’23, who will be assisting the delegation of the Earth Child Institute, a non-governmental organization that represents children and youth to rebuild a normal-climate future.
“I am eager to see how international climate negotiations take place,” Foody said, “and see what I can do on a global scale to fight climate change.”
The class is taught by Allison Chatrchyan, senior research associate in the departments of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Global Development (CALS), who has been taking students to interact with global leaders since COP22, in 2017.
This year, for the first time, the U.N. has invited students from Chatrchyan’s class to join the selective Climate Change and Universities Partnership Program.
Through that partnership, a Cornell student team that includes doctoral student Charlie Tebbutt, in Natural Resources and the Environment (CALS), will be conducting research on land-use planning and climate change needs for Peru.
Doctoral student Valentina Rubio, in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences (CALS), will attend COP27 as an official representative of her home country, Uruguay. She said Uruguay focuses on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture – her expertise as an agronomist.
“Soil has a huge potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere,” Rubio said. “I’m interested in the discussions regarding soil practices by farmers. And at COP27, I expect to be learning how to communicate my research to policymakers, which is a new forum for me.”
Another team including Foody, Rubio and Andy Shin ’23 is conducting research on the needs for climate-smart agriculture tools in Zambia.
Katherine Cornett ‘23, Arden Podpora ’23, and graduate students Nick Hamp-Adams and Courtney Schneider, in the Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy, were invited by the ambassador to the U.N. from the Kingdom of Tonga – a tiny Pacific-island nation – to help their COP27 delegation. Tonga is vulnerable to rising seas and the effects of climate change.
Other students participating on the Cornell student delegation are undergraduates Eva Fenningdorf ’23, Alana Becker ’23, and Elena Martin Hernandez ‘22, who are helping the Cornell exhibit and side events.
Nearly 15,000 delegates are expected to attend COP27, including about 90 heads of state. Several countries are expected to announce new 2030 emission targets as part of their commitment to the Paris Agreement, with many fortifying their existing 2030 targets before the meeting, according to the White House.
Since late August, the students in the class have been steeped in global climate issues, as they learn about the science behind policies through the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
After taking the class last year and now serving as a teaching assistant this semester, Podpora is eager to absorb COP27. “We will be able to network with experts from around the world and listen to differing perspectives,” she said. “I think that’s the coolest part about traveling to Egypt: The world is my classroom.”
Funding for student travel was provided through Cornell student travel grants and support through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Engineering and the Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy.
In addition to the students, Cornell's presence at COP27 includes faculty and staff who will be engaging partners and leading discussions. Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability is providing an online resource for the delegation.