MU student attends Copenhagen climate summit
by Rebecca Prybell
For two weeks representatives from countries around the world, including a Marquette student, are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Chalie Nevarez, a graduate student in the College of Engineering, is the Wisconsin delegate for the Will Steger Foundation Expedition Copenhagen. She also received her bachelor’s degree from Marquette in environmental engineering.
“Throughout my career, I have seen that there is a disconnect between the science and the policy written to make changes occur,” Nevarez said in an e-mail from Copenhagen. “I decided to get involved with the Will Steger Foundation, where I have had the opportunity to engage with youth from the Midwest and talk about climate change.”
Twelve students from colleges across the Midwest are participating in the conference, beginning on December 7 and ending on December 18, in Copenhagen as a part of the Will Steger Foundation Expedition Copenhagen. They will partake in discussions with other youth from around the world about how to make our world more environmentally sustainable.
“My role here in Copenhagen as a delegate is very large,” Nevarez said. “I am very actively participating in the Youth Technology Transfer Affinity Group, where we are trying to ensure that binding and just language is addressed in the treaty. Also, one of our goals is to inspire our peers to address these topics on a local basis, building on our work with the international youth.”
The Will Steger Foundation’s mission is to create programs that foster international leadership and cooperation through environmental education and policy. The foundation paired up with 1Sky, a lobbying group working to pass climate change legislation at the federal level and start a grassroots movement for climate change at the local level, and Clean Wisconsin, a Wisconsin advocacy group working to protect, improve and sustain Wisconsin’s clean water and air, to fund Expedition Copenhagen.
Alex Posorske, field and communications manager for 1Sky, said students are the most passionate advocates because climate change legislation is all about the world they will inherit.
“We’ve certainly had a lot of student participation,” Posorske said. “Our platform is to advocate for bold climate change legislation and build grassroots support.”
1Sky has partnered with Clean Wisconsin to build support in Wisconsin. Katy Walter, 1Sky organizer with Clean Wisconsin, said she has been the policy adviser for Nevarez in her preparation for the Copenhagen conference.
“Part of (Nevarez’s) task (for the Will Steger Foundation) was to work in Wisconsin to support a national climate bill. She is the voice for the movement,” Walter said. “The best way for the United States to show our leadership (in climate change policy) is to have a national bill.”
While the U.S. produces almost a quarter of the world’s green house gas emissions, it falls behind other developed nations, including the European Union as a whole, in terms of climate change policy, said McGee Young, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette who specializes in environmental policy.
“The EU has, since 2003, had a cap and trade program in place and they’ve gone way beyond us in implementing the program,” Young said.
A cap and trade program requires any facility that emits carbon to have a permit for every pound of carbon it emits. If a facility emits more carbon than it has a permit for, it must purchase additional permits from companies who are able to cut their emissions and do not need all their permits, Young said.
Convincing developed countries to cut their emissions is one focus of the Copenhagen conference, Young said. The other is creating a funding mechanism to assist developing countries in reducing their emissions. Because these countries have not contributed significantly to the current emissions problem, they feel they should be compensated for helping to fix a problem they did not create.