October 28, 2022 | NEWS | By Mika Alexander | Photo by Gracie Roe

This November, 10 Colorado College students will travel to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to participate in the 27th Conference of Parties (COP) on climate change. The students will be accompanied by Professor Sarah Hautzinger and Mindfulness Fellow Myra Jackson.

A product of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COP 27 will bring prominent international figures and activists together to negotiate ways to enhance climate action ambition and strengthen mitigation mechanisms.

Additionally, officials at the COP will negotiate actions fitting the requirements outlined by the 2015 Paris Agreement, which mandates that countries do what they can to limit global temperatures under two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. State parties submit Nationally Determined Contributions every few years to ensure their commitment to climate action and mitigation.

The Block Three community-based field course, AN380: Engaging the COP 27 in Egypt as Ethnographers, required applicants to propose a personal project to work on while at the conference. Additionally, interested students used the application to highlight why they are passionate about attending such a large-scale event.

While there are “a lot of reasons not to get on fossil-fuel burning jets and fly across the Atlantic to Egypt for a climate conference, and the ironies of that don’t escape us,” said Hautzinger, “there’s no substitute for being there in person.”

To prepare, AN380 students have been working since this summer with graduate and undergraduate peers at institutions like Colorado State University and Michigan Technical University to prepare for various presentations, press conferences, and interviews.

Moreover, the course’s emphasis on ethnography will empower the students to engage in many conversations with political, economic, and non-state climate action leaders.

Although only about half of the students in the class have an academic background in anthropology or ethnography, the conference will provide a diverse, interdisciplinary space to explore the nuances of the global climate change crisis.

“I’m going to the COP 27 to represent youth and gain a better understanding of how the [negotiations] processes work,” said neuroscience major Layla Haji ’25.

The COP 27 will also focus heavily on generating climate action ambition among sub-national and non-state actors.

Although the Paris Agreement’s call to action universalizes a common goal and responsibility of a country to the international community, current climate action ambition levels are not high enough to ensure the fulfillment of the agreement’s requirements.

Therefore, “it cannot be simply the work of policy wonks, diplomats, and dignitaries. It’s very important that civil society, and especially youth, and women, and Indigenous, and other marginalized peoples are part of these discussions,” said Hautzinger.

Since leaders have identified sub-national and non-state action as a key to fulfilling the Paris Agreement, the international community has made more efforts to listen to grassroots voices.

Some of these initiatives involve the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action and the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue, which both privilege community-based solutions and individual-level climate actions that can be scaled up to the international arena.

As such, Colorado College’s cohort of students attending the COP 27 may contribute to current efforts engaging sub-national and non-state actors around the crisis of climate change.

Like many issues, climate change is complicated and nuanced. Scientists and politicians know that global temperatures are rising, yet not enough is done to mitigate subsequent loss and damage.

“We’ve seen that what we know about the science and the policy is necessary, but not sufficient enough to rise to this challenge,” said Hautzinger.

For the AN380 students attending the COP 27, participating in the conference ensures that they take their experiences home with them to further fuel ambition among their own communities.

“A Paris Agreement means less than the paper it’s printed on if there’s no buy-in transnationally, nationally, regionally, and at the community and individual level. And so, a group like this is really able to think about the embodied and affective parts of what’s at stake here,” said Hautzinger.

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