Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel
As has been the case for the past two years, NYU Abu Dhabi students are currently participating in the annual United Nations Conference of the Parties from Nov. 6 through Nov. 18. This year marks COP23, and along with it, the second meeting regarding the historic Paris Agreement, which was adopted two years ago at COP21. The Student Interest Group, Green House: Youth Climate Think Tank, is represented by six students this year who, in the interest of class attendance, are attending the conference in two groups of three, each attending one week of the two-week conference. In addition, attending the conference the second week are five students from the class Renewable Energy Law and Policy, taught jointly by Professor Shakeel Kazmi and, for the first half of the semester, His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment.
The NYUAD students represented at the conference are part of the UAE youth delegation, which also includes students from the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, Masdar Institute and the Emirates Youth Council. The students’ UAE accreditation allows them to follow all negotiations. They have taken on the role of tracking these negotiations and writing summaries, which they provided to the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment.
“The youth delegation gives us more of a different perspective and are able to attend the meetings that the ministry cannot attend … given the vast number of meetings, whether it’s negotiations or side events,” said Shaima Al Aydarous, Head of International Climate Policy in the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment.
Furthermore, the UAE sees the youth participation in the conference as an important step in creating a generation capable of participating in and solving international issues.
“We wanted to basically give first-hand experience for the youth of the UAE, regardless of whether they’re international students or national students,” said Al Aydarous. “We want to give them a learning experience to see … how the world comes together to achieve a sustainable future. Capacity building is of utmost importance [to] the UAE, especially for the youth,” she added. Participating students are excited to have the opportunity to go to such a conference and have found it to be an enlightening experience.
“I honestly feel like this is the first time in my life I can actually be part of real change,” said Cassandra Mitchell, Class of 2021 and a member of Green House. “I never really thought I could be part of real deal decision making before. Now I have an idea of what it looks like to be part of those sorts of conversations … It’s also made me totally rethink the climate change crisis … I thought I knew the answers, and I really don’t.”
Since the first participation in COP by Green House members at COP21, the degree of collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment has increased. At COP22 in Marrakesh, Green House had four delegates attending with UAE accreditation and another four with NYU School of Law accreditation. However, NYU School of Law does not have access to negotiations and students were thus restricted to side events arranged by NGOs and companies.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity that [the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment] gives NYUAD the trust to be part of the delegation, especially that we get to go to the negotiations themselves. NYU only has an observer status as an academic institution, hence this opportunity is unprecedented in the history of NYU,” wrote Norbert Monti, Class of 2018 and President of Green House, who attended COP21 in Paris two years ago. “I hope that in the future there will be even more possibilities for collaboration.”
The NYUAD students from Green House are live-updating from the conference on their Twitter-account from open negotiations and side events.
Jakob Plaschke is News Editor. Email him at [email protected]