UConn to attend UN Climate Change Conference despite Trump’s actions

FILE - In this April 3, 2014 file photo giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

University of Connecticut staff and students will be attending a third United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany on Saturday Nov. 11 for seven days, according to Sarah Munro, the Sustainability Program Coordinator for the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP).

COP 23 will focus on advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement and its guidelines, according to the United Nations website.

President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will not greatly impact U.S. involvement at the climate meeting, Munro said. A national group of government officials, companies, churches and universities called We Are Still In will still be attending COP 23 even without official U.S. representation. 

The trip is organized with the help of the UConn@COP Organizing Committee, a group made up of faculty and staff from many departments across campus, according to Munro.

UConn@COP attended their first conference, COP 21, in 2015 in Paris, France, when the Paris Agreement was signed, Munro said. The UConn@COP Organizing Committee spent the entire summer before the climate meeting reaching out to deans and different groups on campus for sponsors, she said.

“It was very easy (to) ask. People saw it as an opportunity for engagement and experiential learning for students,” Munro said.

This year the UConn group will include 14 students, which is an increase from last year’s number of 12, Munro said.

“We have students that are really engaged and passionate in these topics,” Munro said.

Students learned new perspectives at the panel, said Margaux Amara, a seventh-semester honors molecular and cell biology major, who attended the conference last year.

“A lot of our days were listening and engaging in panel discussions with experts from all over the world,” Amara said.

When the UConn group returned, they had a meeting with UConn president Susan Herbst that was much longer than they had planned, Munro said.

“(Herbst) kept waving off her next meetings and we ended up sitting there for a little over an hour talking about our experiences in Paris,” Munro said.

UConn@COP attended COP 22 in 2016 in Marrakech Morocco, Africa, soon after the election of Trump, Amara said.

“There was one (American) man that traveled all the way to Marrakech with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump and stood in front of the green zone protesting,” Amara said.

Nobody at the conference even understood who the man was or why he was standing there, Amara said, because the U.S. is the only country with a significant population of people with doubt about climate change.

“When I say that the whole entire world is fundamentally on board with climate change except (the U.S.), that is the truth,” Amara said.

After the climate meeting in 2016, Herbst signed on to the group We Are Still In, Munro said.

“We would have (still gone without that happening) but it shows that she’s committed to it as well, which is fantastic,” Munro said. “It’s nice to know that… our university president views (the climate meeting) as an important (event).”

Amara said she wishes she could return for this year’s panel, but understands the importance of other students having the experience.

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity,” Amara said. “It is life changing.”


Nicholas Hampton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.hampton@uconn.edu.