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U of M students among thousands attending global climate conference in Dubai

As annual climate negotiations begin this week in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 13 University of Minnesota students will be amongst the 70,000 negotiators and observers expected to be in attendance. The 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) is the formal meeting and decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COPs have been occurring annually since 1995 to assess global progress on climate change and negotiate solutions to the defining environmental and social challenge of our time.

In the last two years, the University of Minnesota has realigned its COP delegation to address concerns of inequitable representation of developing nations at climate negotiations. A report released after COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland (2021) showed that over 73 percent of participants were from developed nations in Western Europe and other states (including the United States), with every other region of the world and all developing nations represented by only 27 percent of delegates. 

“We recognized that many of our strongest climate policy, human rights, sustainable development, environmental economics and conservation, and ecology and environmental science graduate students are themselves from developing countries,” said Beth Mercer-Taylor, a COP delegation organizer for the university and co-program director of sustainability education at the Institute on the Environment. For COP28, priority was given to applicants who are from developing countries or applicants who have research projects in collaboration with people in developing countries. 

“They have a strong chance, as observers, of having their research and cultural knowledge leveraged by developing countries in the preparations leading up to negotiations, and even during negotiations themselves,” said Mercer-Taylor.

Students represent seven different colleges or professional programs and have research interests that include bioengineering, environmental law, sustainable agriculture, and advocacy and education – topics that are all sure to be relevant during negotiations.

Key discussions expected at COP28 include: a ‘global stocktake’ that will assess progress towards the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius; adaptation and resilience to acute climate risks; and climate finance, with particular emphasis on operationalizing the loss and damage fund agreed to during last year’s negotiations. 

The University of Minnesota delegation also includes IonE research scientist Nfamara Dampha and Colin Agur, associate professor at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This delegation is one of the many Research and Nongovernmental Organizations (RINGOs) that are invited to participate in COP. The role of RINGOs is to provide a platform for academics, teachers, researchers, think tanks, and other independent NGOs to engage in these global climate discussions. 

The University of Minnesota COP28 delegation

  • Colin Agur, associate professor, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Azra Bano, Master of Urban & Regional Planning student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Nfamara Dampha, lead scientist and director for Natural Capital Project at Institute on the Environment
  • Eduardo Garay Lagos, PhD candidate in Land and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources
  • Monica Guendy, Master of Development Practice student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Muneeb Hafeez, Master of Business Administration student, Carlson School of Management
  • Malak Kahlil, Master of Development Practice student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Natia Kantaria, Master of Human Rights student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Suman Lata, Master of Science student in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources
  • Samuel Makikalli, Juris Doctorate, Law School
  • Renzo Negrini, Master of Science (Land and Atmospheric Science) student, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources
  • Fatima Tufail, PhD candidate in Comparative International Development Education, College of Education and Human Development

Other University of Minnesota attendees:

  • Yvonne Mongare, nursing student, School of Nursing (Climate Generation delegation)
  • Vishnu Laalitha Surapaneni, hospitalist at MHealth Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center and assistant professor and researcher at the Medical School (International Society of Doctors for the Environment delegation). 

Learn more at: University of Minnesota at COP28.

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