University of Minnesota students head to UN climate change talks

Official observer status will provide ringside view of international negotiations in Mexico

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Todd Reubold, Institute on the Environment,, (612) 624-6140
Jeff Falk, University News Service,, (612) 626-1720

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (11/16/2010) – Sixteen University of Minnesota students will participate as official observers at the UN Climate Change Conference negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of this month, where leaders from around the world will work toward long-term cooperative action to address climate change. 

The students will attend the first week of the two-week negotiations, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 4. They will be available during that time to provide news updates to Minnesota media and will maintain blogs with the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Institute on the Environment and other outlets, providing a local “finger on the pulse” for the pivotal talks.

Seven of the students are enrolled in a climate change policy course offered by the University’s sustainability studies minor and co-taught by state Sen. Ellen Anderson, chair of the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division committee, and state Rep. Kate Knuth, who was part of the Will Steger Foundation’s delegation to the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen. Along with nine other graduate and undergraduate students, they represent a spectrum of majors, including landscape architecture, law, conservation biology, civil engineering, political science, and environmental sciences, policy and management. Anderson and Knuth, who is also a conservation biology graduate student and a researcher with the Institute on the Environment, will co-lead the delegation.

 “By being immersed in the negotiations, these students will gain a better understanding of the impacts of climate change, learn about laws and policies relating to climate change, and have a chance to analyze the intersection of local, national and international carbon policies and negotiations,” said Beth Mercer-Taylor, sustainability studies minor coordinator. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I expect will stay with them throughout their careers.”

Delegation member Jayme Dittmar, a senior pursuing an individualized degree in fisheries and wildlife, mass communication and sustainability, is looking forward to seeing history being made. “I am an aspiring environmental journalist,” Dittmar said.  “I will be attending the conference in hopes of telling the story of how the world finally came together to create a working climate change treaty.”

The University of Minnesota delegation includes students from the College of Liberal Arts; the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; the College of Biological Sciences; the College of Science and Engineering; the College of Design; and the College of Continuing Education.

The students will host a public forum to discuss their experiences Dec. 9, 3–4 p.m. at the Institute on the Environment in 380 VoTech Building, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. The public and media are welcome to attend.

For information on the sustainability studies minor:
To follow the students’ IonE blog: