Earlier this month, Courtney Wilson ’08, an environmental studies and public policy double major, spent a week in Austria observing United Nations negotiations on climate change policy. At the “Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007, Wilson observed negotiations among several countries involved in the Kyoto Protocol, an environmental treaty forged to reduce greenhouse gases. Since the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, these preliminary negotiations were designed to discuss a new treaty to succeed the current one upon expiration.
As part of her senior honors project and following two summer research positions with Associate Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Tom Drennen, Wilson received a grant for her trip to Vienna from the Kloman Fellowship Fund; this grant was made possible by a generous gift from friends in memory of E. Helm Kloman, a 1975 graduate of Hobart College. Wilson offset her flights’ carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing a TerraPass, which helps fund clean energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions.
Wilson said during the week-long meetings, delegates from each country proposed a perspective on building a post-2012 climate policy, discussed the pathway forward, debated the finances of climate mitigation and adaptation, and negotiated draft conclusions of the meetings, which are to serve as a foundation for the final negotiations, which will take place at the end of this year in Bali.
At the meetings, much emphasis was placed on the Clean Development Mechanism, a system in which developed nations invest technology and finances into developing nations, to reduce the emissions of those countries. Wilson says that these mechanisms “are an integral component of the Kyoto Protocol designed to promote local sustainable development in developing countries.
In Vienna, Wilson listened to dialogues among UN diplomats as well as attended side events held by non-governmental organizations. One of her most memorable experiences was meeting Sudanese diplomat Bagis Elasha. “We spoke about the potential of CDMs in Africa, and the barriers associated with this flexible mechanism, Wilson said.
“In addition, we discussed the frustrations as well as the promise of the UN negotiation and dialogue process to solve climate change. I also met other diplomats and NGO representatives, but [Elasha] topped the list for sure!
This conversation, among several with researchers and diplomats from all over the world, has helped Wilson discover the many options she has for her honors project. It seems “like the possibilities are almost endless, Wilson said. “This has certainly been an experience I will not forget anytime soon!