Tufts Sends Delegation of Students and Faculty to Annual United Nations Climate Change Conference

A delegation of Tufts students and faculty attended the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-20.. The 27th Conference of Parties, or COP27, is an annual opportunity for world leaders, climate activists and professionals to share their work with an international audience and negotiate on foreign policies that mitigate the impacts of global warming.

The Fletcher School Student Emilie Dahl, who is studying for a Masters in Global Affairsparticipantd COP27 to focus on natural solutions to climate change. She stressed the importance of the conference.

“The volume of activity going on at COP27 is quite amazing,” Dahl said. “The idea that…multiple organizations share the initiatives they have undertaken…and that people around the world are interested in hearing about and learning from these experiences and…forging new connections… [is] one of the most powerful aspects of the COP. »

Every year, Tufts allows a select group of community members to directly witness these historic negotiations and, in some cases, even present their own research. From master’s students at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to professors at the School of Engineering, representinghe members of this year’s delegation came from very diverse backgrounds, united by their common interest in the fight against climate change.

Deborah Sunter, assistant professor in the School of Engineering and member of the Fletcher School’s Climate Policy Lab, discussed the importance of the opportunityto attend the conference.

“[Attending the COP] is an opportunity for people from different parts of the university…because it really is an experience for anyone who is passionate about climate change,” Sunter said.

Sunter, along with his PhD student Emily Holt and Fletcher graduate student Abay Yimere, attended COP27 to present a project they have been working on since July in collaboration with Ethiopian Electric Power, a state-owned power producer. The project includes a model that “determines the least-cost energy investments needed to achieve environmental goals in Ethiopia,” according to an email from Sunter. Most electrical power in Ethiopia comes from hydropower plants, which are sensitive to drought; the new model examines how energy planning may need to change in the face of increasing climate uncertainty.

“What I was hoping to get out of this presentation at the COP is basically to share the model with a broad international community so that many people can use it,” Sunter said. “I had given a very similar presentation at the Climate Policy Lab Summer Academy… and it was through this presentation at the Summer Academy that the collaboration with Ethiopia began. The hope was therefore that the presentation that would be made at the COP would then encourage other similar collaborations.

After presenting their work on November 14, Sunter, Yimere and Holt spent the rest of their time at the conference attending other presentations, meeting potential collaborators and learning about the various climate initiatives being carried out around the world.

“The few presentations I’ve seen so far have left me invigorated and hopeful for what’s being done,” Holt said. “[It’s] just amazing to see these other presentations that were so outside of my experience and truly inspiring to see other endeavors that I had no knowledge of succeed.

However, Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School and a leading expert on climate change, has attended more than a dozen COPs and felt the pace of progress at COP27 was far too slow.

“In [the] parallel events…there has been real, substantial, concrete progress, sleeves rolled up…progress in terms of ways of thinking about transformation, the kinds of deals that need to be made, the kinds of financial innovation needed, the kinds of support to different countries that is needed,” Kyte said. “But when you entered the trading room, it was deadlocked.”

Despite the shortcomings of COP27, Kyte acknowledged that progress has been made, particularly in terms of investing more money in renewable energy and thinking about how the developed world can start to cope. its climate impacts by compensating low-income countries.

As the urgency of the climate crisis continues to escalate, Kyte hopes encouraging climate talks is something that is an integral part of every Tufts student’s education.

“Climate is something every graduate of Tufts University should know, whether a philosopher or a physicist, an English literature student or a veterinarian,” Kyte said. “You are faced with living in a world shaped by climate change. If we want to put you out into the world as good citizens, which we represent here at Tufts, then that becomes important. … For me, climate is everything, and everything is climate.

Teresa H. Sadler