Inside Perspective on UN climate negotiations – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Inside Perspective on UN climate negotiations

Courtney Wilson ’08 presented “United Nations Climate Negotiations: A First Hand Account,” March 6 in the Finger Lakes Institute.

Wilson, an environmental studies and public policy double major from San Mateo, Calif., recently visited Vienna, Austria; and Bali, Indonesia; observing negotiations by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Discussions at these climate change conferences paved the way for a new post-2012 international climate change policy. The existing international treaty was designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and thereby prevent global warming.

By signing the treaty, the United States — and other nations — are committed to a voluntary “non-binding aim” to reduce greenhouse gases. The talks Wilson recently attended concerned the conversations, process, and framework now being used to assess the progress made in dealing with climate change at a global scale.

She shared her unique experience at the conferences and offered her account of the conversations among international policy negotiators and climate researchers. Her trip was part of her senior honors project, and followed 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.

At the meetings, much emphasis was placed on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), 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. She met with Bagis Elasha, a Sudanese diplomat; and “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.”