December 2—When it comes to figuring out how to solve climate change, students should let change put itself in the shoes of those making tough decisions.
Niagara University’s Vincentian Center for Justice will host its inaugural International Conference on Climate Change today, where students will take the form of a model United Nations to discuss how to combat climate change.
From 9am to 4pm at the Russell Salvatore Dining Commons on campus, the lecture will be a simulation modeled after this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharem el-Sheikh, Egypt. More than 50 students will take on the role of country representatives.
Designed and led by Fulbright Scholar and Niagara University Environmental Justice Fellow and Scholar in Residence Farida Razaqi, LLM, this simulation puts students in the shoes of a diplomat or official at a United Nations conference.
“Planning for this simulation started last summer, and students have been working on research and participating in trainings and hands-on sessions since September,” Razaqi said.
This has been incorporated into political science, international studies and law and jurisprudence courses alongside extra-curricular courses such as Model United Nations, International Humanitarian Assistance Program and United Nations Partnership and Pre-Law Student Association.
Razaqi said the overall theme of the conference revolves around the global response to climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Climate Agreement.
“The participating students have spent the past twelve weeks grappling with multiple dimensions of climate change policy,” Razaqi said, especially to meet the Paris Agreement goals of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above before-industrial levels.
The 50 participating students have become experts in the political decisions made by the country to which they are assigned and how those decisions influence and are influenced by other states, national and international institutions and the people whose lives hang in the balance.
“Involving students directly and hands-on in the process will lead to a deeper understanding of climate change and related issues facing the United States and the world, as well as the framework within which these issues are being addressed and resolved,” said Razaqi.
Niagara University alumnus Lisa Kurbiel, head of the secretariat for the Joint SDG Fund at the United Nations, will deliver remarks during the opening ceremony via Zoom.
Kim Diana Connolly, vice dean for advocacy and experimental education and director of the University of Buffalo School of Law’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic, will be the keynote speaker at the closing ceremony.
During the closing ceremony, Jim Claffey, NGO representative of the Congregation of the Mission to the United Nations, will share his thoughts on the simulation and present the awards.
The conference is co-sponsored by the United Nations Joint SDG Fund and the NGO delegation of the Congregation of the Mission to the United Nations. Razaqi said seeing the excitement and interest in this simulation will lead to development opportunities for students from other local colleges and high schools to participate in the future.