Honors College students Grace Waugh and Matthew Mair traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to attend the 27th annual Conference of Parties (COP27) on climate change from November 6-20. COP27 is held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Dr. Dave McEvoy, professor and chair of App State’s Department of Economics, and Dr. Lee Ball, chief sustainability officer with App State’s Office of Sustainability, led six students, including Waugh and Mair, to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for the conference. Waugh is a senior majoring in sustainable technology with a minor in economics. Mair is a junior and a 2020 Chancellor’s Scholar, who is double-majoring in economics and political science.
This faculty-led study abroad trip was connected to the special topics course ECO 4530: UN Climate Negotiations, which is being taught this Fall 2022 semester by Dr. McEvoy. Students were selected into this course and program through a competitive application process. This course and program is offered through the Walker College of Business and welcomed students from all disciplines. As stated in the syllabus, “this course aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental issues regarding climate change, the negotiations process and the political dynamics of the UNFCCC.” While at COP27, each student in the course chose an issue to follow. During the trip, they also kept up a Twitter presence @AppStateToCop where they posted day-to-day activities, and answered questions posed.
The UNFCCC is tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The Convention has near universal membership (198 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. As Waugh explained, the COP annual conference, “brings together the nations of the world as well as a myriad of organizations and observers to discuss the world's response to climate change as well as provide a platform to countries and other interests for the purpose of showcasing achievements, sharing messages, and often bringing to light challenges.”
Photo above features the App State ECO 4530 group of students outside of the COP27 conference center on day one of the conference (left to right): Matthew Mair, Jonathan Buckley, Chelsea Gulliver, Rachel Crabb, Grace Waugh, and Luke Halodik. Photo submitted.
Mair shared that “this opportunity has been an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways. Through the side events and negotiation discussions, I gained a whole new perspective on what is being done to address climate change on a local, national, and international stage around the world. It is amazing that the university and the Walker College of Business offers such an engaging and educational experience for students wanting to learn more about international negotiations on climate change.”
Waugh reflected that it was privilege to be able to attend this conference. She stated,
We hope to share all that we learned — through both observing events and reflecting upon them. Climate change is a global issue that requires a global response, and now more than ever is it clear that everyone needs to be involved.
Waugh described the conference as so full of events that it was difficult to navigate even with a daily plan and schedule. She explained, “the conference center consisted of multiple zones, each of which had different necessary levels of clearance and buildings of varying sizes, making navigation a challenge…With so much going on in one location, we had to take time in the evening to review what we had heard that day and often read up on things we missed.”
In addition to the conference, the App State ECO 4530 group took the time to explore the city of Sharm el-Sheikh. They went snorkeling in the Red Sea, where they observed a beautiful natural reef system, as well as the striking mountains within the Ras Mohamed National Park. In the city, they visited the Old Market and toured the Sahaba Mosque. Waugh explained that, “throughout the trip, we met and talked [with] people from all over the world, hearing their stories and discussing climate change and its associated issues.”
Photo above of the Sahaba Mosque in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Photo by Grace Waugh.
Now that the group has returned, each student is completing a brief on their chosen topic, and those will be shared on the course website site here. They are also sharing their stories in a debriefing panel hosted by the Office of Sustainability to be held on December 1 from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Top photo features Honors College students Grace Waugh (left) and Matthew Mair (right) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in front of the COP27 conference display made from recycled fibers. Photo submitted.