Dec. 2-When it comes to figuring out how to solve climate change, students should get the change to be in the shoes of those making hard decisions.
Niagara University's Vincentian Center for Justice will host its inaugural International Climate Change Conference today, where students will take on the form of a Model United Nations to discuss how to combat climate change.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the campus' Russell Salvatore Dining Commons, the conference 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 roles of country representatives.
Designed and led by Fulbright Scholar and Niagara University Environmental Justice Fellow and Scholar in Residence Farida Razaqi, L.L.M., this simulation allows students to be in the shoes of a diplomat or official at a United Nations conference.
"Planning for this simulation began last summer, and students have been working on research and participating in trainings and practice sessions since September," Razaqi said.
This has been incorporated into political science, international studies, and law and jurisprudence courses along with extra-curriculars like the Model United Nations, the International Humanitarian Assistance Program and United Nations partnership, and Pre-Law Student association.
Razaqi said the conference's overall theme revolves around the global response to climate change within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Climate Agreement.
"Student participants have spent the past twelve weeks grappling with multiple dimensions of climate change policy," Razaqi said, specifically on meeting the Paris Agreement's goals of attaining net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century and limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius compared to pre-industiral levels.
The 50 participating students have become versed in the policy decisions made by the country they are assigned to and how those decisions influence and are influenced by other states, domestic and international institutions, and the people whose lives are in the balance.
"Students' direct, hands-on involvement in the process will lead to a deeper grasp of climate change and related issues facing the U.S. and the world, as well as the framework in which these issues are addressed and resolved," Razaqi said.
Niagara University alumna Lisa Kurbiel, the Head of Secretariat for the Joint SDG Fund at the United Nations, will provide remarks during the open ceremony via Zoom. Kim Diana Connolly, the vice dean for advocacy and experimental education and director of the Environmental Advocacy Clinic of the University of Buffalo School of Law, will be the keynote speaker during the closing ceremony.
During the closing ceremony, Jim Claffey, the NGO representative of the Congregation of the Mission to the United Nations, will share his reflections on the simulation and confer 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 that in seeing the excitement and interest in this simulation will lead to development opportunities for students from other colleges and local high schools to participate in the future.