“You are the leaders of tomorrow!”


My dear, old French teacher in high school would pointedly announce periodically throughout the semesters, during which he taught 15, 16 and 17 year olds. Mind you, I have another old high school teacher who recently quoted K. Vonnegut on Facebook, “True terror is to wake up and discover your high school class is running the country.” Mixed messages- but they motivated this blog.

Recently, my Environmental Approaches to Geographical Issues course had a mock United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change- the class was divided into groups and each was assigned a country to represent in a Conference of Parties to discuss possible mitigation and adaptation policies that were previously set out in a “University of Ottawa Accords 2011”. I’m sure some of you have experienced similar simulations, especially if you are in a political sciencey program of study, but this was my first “debate-style” presentation.

I want to congratulate all of the students that took part in the mock conference (and of course Prof. Jackie Dawson); a lot of work was put into researching countries and attempting to come up with feasible policies which I had not honestly expected. You know those awkward “class discussions” where the prof generally has to spur conversation and usually only one or two students contribute at all or the contributions are not really relevant at all? Well, this mock debate gave me faith in our “future leaders”. Some students in the course have actually attended some UNFCC/similar conferences and really knew their stuff; others clearly researched their countries and got into character. There were some tense moments and I think I can speak for the entire class and say that we now have an appreciation for the difficulty in decision-making especially concerning such a complex subject as climate change.

If you were wondering what sort of policies we discussed:
  • The reduction of GHG emissions (much debate on the %, baseline year, annex 1 vs annex 2 requirements, and the associate tariffs per tonne overage)
  • Whether countries reliant on oil production as a main source of economic income or growth should be exempt from these regulations (created quite an outcry from most countries)
  • Policies regarding Cap and Trade global emissions trading systems
  • Clean Development Mechanisms as a means to promote transfer of technology from Annex 1 countries to Annex 2 countries
  • Developing climate refugee immigration programs
  • Adaptation Fund allocation and those able to claim from it discussion and negotiation
As a representative of the Maldives, the small islands country that will be the first to experience major effects of sea level rise—we were adamant about the last two points in particular. I am kind of thankful now for the whole process. I think that it is important that as students, we get the chance to be a part of these kinds of discussions and to walk in another person's shoes.

-meriss.

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