United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

  • Members of Emory University COP21 delegation at UN Pavilion

  • Members of Emory University COP22 delegation at UN Pavilion

  • Emory University COP21 delegates Mae Bowen 16C and Savannah Miller 16C meet primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall

  • Emory University COP21 delegates and Dr. Eri Saikawa meet climatologist and activist Dr. Jim Hansen

  • A few of Emory University COP21 delegates with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

  • Emory University COP22 delegates presented climate change research at OASIS space

A once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the United Nations Climate Change negotiations...

Emory was accredited as an official observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2014 and we have sent delegations to the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC since 2015. Please consider supporting Emory's efforts to send students to the COP in 2017. You may make a secure donation by clicking here.

What is the UNFCCC?

Ratified in 1992, the UNFCCC is the first global treaty addressing climate change, which created this body and meets yearly to discuss progress and take bold action. The Kyoto Protocol and more recent Paris Agreement are other landmark treaties that have come out of these annual meetings. Emory has sent delegations to COP21 in Paris, France in 2015 and COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016.

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Why have a delegation?

Emory is one of only 50 American universities with official observer status at the COP each year. Emory and Duke University are the only schools representing the southeastern United States. As not only a peer of these schools, but a top institution for public health, scientific research, and law, Emory is a valuable addition to the RINGO (Research Institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations) constituency at the UNFCCC. After only two years attending the COP, Emory has gained new research partnerships and ideas, presented our research to large international audiences, and made connections with NGOs, businesses, and policymakers.

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The Emory Philosophy

Some schools send their faculty and researchers to collaborate and present their work. Others send graduate students working on specific climate-related projects. A smaller group still, including Emory for the past two years, focuses on creating a unique growth experience geared toward mostly undergraduate students. Some of these student delegations collaborate on one large research project, while others task each student with producing a report on a specific issue at the conference. Emory has taken a flexible and creative approach, by allowing students to propose individual projects based on their interests. The course offered in the Fall semester prepares students for the upcoming climate negotiation and delegations will have ample opportunity to take action on climate change after their trip on Emory campus and in Atlanta communities. Emory recruits an academically diverse group of students, with past delegation members having studied environmental sciences, creative writing, economics, business administration, political science, anthropology, music, sociology, law, history, and more.

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Experiential Learning and Climate Change

As part of the Emory COP delegation and related initiatives, participating students, partake in a year-long interdisciplinary course which emphasizes collaboration, science and policy knowledge, communication skills, and community advocacy. Taylor McNair 16B explains why the course was meaningful to him:

“Our projects leading up to Paris gave me the chance to talk to some of Atlanta's leading climate experts. And our class post-COP had the exciting opportunity to engage all of Emory's campus in meaningful and transformative climate discussions and action. All of this occurred with the most diverse group of students, in terms of backgrounds and academic interests, that I have had the opportunity to work with during my four years at Emory.”  -Taylor McNair 16B

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Outcomes (so far)

Following Emory’s first delegation trip to COP21, where the landmark Paris Agreement was signed, the participating students dove into the work of bringing the COP - and climate change advocacy - to Emory’s campus and beyond. The Emory Climate Organization (ECO) was co-founded in January 2016 by members of the inaugural delegation to educate the community on climate change science, policy, advocacy, and action. You can learn more about ECO at http://climate.emorydomains.org/ and listen to the podcasts and read blog articles by delegations. The delegation(s) have also participated in events held at the Carter Center and the Atlanta Science Festival, held a joint panel with researchers from Nanjing University, and brought speakers to campus, among other programming.

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Opportunity for All

We believe that opportunities like this should not be limited to those students with the means to finance an overseas trip. We aim to build delegations that are diverse in terms of socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, research interests, and other aspects of background and identity. This emphasis creates an eye-opening experience for the students and faculty involved as well as ensures that we are showcasing the best Emory has to offer. We believe that any student, should they be passionate about combating climate change and qualified to participate, should have the opportunity to represent Emory on the world stage with this opportunity. In order to fully fund the future delegations, we need your help!

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Program Goals

  • Send 10-15 students and 1-2 faculty to yearly COP meeting as part of Emory course
  • Organize annual events which bring the COP back to Emory and Atlanta

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Student Experiences at the COP

Mae Bowen

“There is only so much you can learn about the process of negotiating an international agreement from a textbook. Attending the COP expanded my knowledge of the painstaking process of crafting these treaties. My appreciation for this process changed my entire academic and professional trajectory. I’ve always known that I wanted to enter public service and protect the environment, but this invaluable experience convinced me to enter law school on my way to combatting climate change on an international scale. It was truly inspiring to see that 195 nations, despite immeasurable differences, could come together and make progress on an issue which many believe to be impossible to fix. Now, I have hope.” -Mae Bowen 16C


Taylor McNair

“COP21 in Paris was undoubtedly the defining experience of my Emory education. The opportunity I received to meet and engage with academics, activists, business leaders, and politicians across the world had a profound impact on my post-graduation plans, and gave me the drive and resources to pursue opportunities in the cleantech industry.” -Taylor McNair 16B


Jennie Sun

“The COP 22 experience was beyond any knowledge learning process in class. It was really impactful to see that people from different parts of the world are actually struggling with various problems caused by climate change and that they are advocating for their rights and a greater attention.” -Jennie Sun 15OX 17C


Emily Li

COP isn't your average conference--it's not just attending talks (by NASA scientists and government policymakers), brainstorming in panels (about combatting climate skepticism, with youth activists from around the world), or networking (with global leaders in climate science research). The event is a testament to the widespread, prevailing nature of climate change, which is just as much ingrained in the feathers on the traditional garb of Native Americans discussing environmental justice, in the sculptures inspired by climate disasters, and in every bite of sustainable chocolate. For me, COP was all that and more--the opportunity to learn first-hand how world leaders, policymakers, and activists are approaching climate change so that in the future I, too, can be part of that solution.” -Emily Li 17C

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