Swat Delegation at U.N. Climate Change Conference: Final Reflection

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

One week ago today, students Laura Rigell ’15 and Alex Ahn ’15, and Professor Carol Nackenoff, chair of the Environmental Studies Program, departed Philadelphia for Warsaw, Poland, to attend the conference on climate change hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They returned Sunday night.

This is the 19th such conference (COP19). Nearly 200 nations sent delegations to the conference, which ends Friday. This is the first time members of the Swarthmore community joined them as a delegation. Swarthmore was recently granted NGO observer status by the United Nations.

The plans of Swarthmore’s delegation are described in detail in a post on the College’s website, excerpted here:

Outside of observing the official negotiations, “one of the central objectives of our trip, and a key goal of many NGO organizations who will be represented at the conference, will be to network and form collaborative relationships with as many groups from around the world as possible,” Ahn says. The delegation will also have the unique opportunity to meet with Executive Secretary Figueres ’79 and Anne Kolker ’08, an international climate change negotiator for the U.S. State Department.

The delegation has begun blogging about their experiences and observations here. They have submitted select posts to The Daily Gazette. Below is the final post, written by Rigell.

Two days ago, I was rushing around the Warsaw stadium that contained the United Nations climate stadium.  Inside that building, about 10,000 are still gathered, deliberating about one of the greatest issues ever faced in human history.   On Saturday, my final day at the 19th Conference of Parties, I did sit in on a general UN plenary.  Through the technical language, the tensions surfaced.  In that plenary, the lead negotiator of the Philippines Yeb Sano insisted that “developed countries must take the lead.”  Last Monday, he began fasting in solidarity with those suffering or dead as a result of typhoon Haiyan.  Yeb Sano demands bold action for climate justice through immediate and ambitious commitments to emissions reductions and adaptation finance.

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Many at the COP immediately began fasting in solidarity, such as these three representatives from SustainUS (a US youth delegation).  Since, the idea has spread across the world, and over 1000 people will be fasting for at least one day this week.  I will be fasting Wednesday through Friday in solidarity with the Philippines and demanding ambitious action for climate justice.  I simply cannot accept continued inaction by our government on climate change.

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Ryan Madden, Adam Greenberg, and Collin Rees of SustainUS fast at COP19.

Those of us who are planning to fast will be wearing red dots and sitting at a table in Sharples.  I invite you to join us.  You are welcome to join for a single meal, one day, or for multiple. Please email me (lrigell1@swarthmore.edu) to get plugged into the community of fasters who will be supporting each other in Sharples this week.  Also, this facebook event is a great place to gather information and inspiration.

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Students at Tufts fasted in their dining hall yesterday.

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