Priory Alumna Attends the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 26
St. Andrew's Schools
Priory alumna Olivia Stoetzer ’19 was selected to be a member of the Swarthmore College’s delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 26. She is a Political Science and Environmental Studies double major and Class of 2023 at Swarthmore College. You can access her article on Swarthmore College's website here and their blog here.
Olivia was kind to share with us some of her experiences:
On the first night we arrived in Edinburgh, I met up with Chip Fletcher and Marti Townsend - my Hawaiʻi connections for the week. Chip Fletcher had actually come to lecture at a few of my classes in high school, notably AP Environmental Science. For my Priory in the City internship, I interned under Marti Townsend at the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. At the 2019 Youth Climate Strike, I believe we all spoke at strike. It was exciting to reunite with two people from Hawaiʻi who had both impacted my interest in sustainability and climate change. Growing up in Hawaiʻi, I believe I have a unique perspective on climate change. We are already starting to feel the impacts of climate change. It was exciting to see how well Hawaiʻi was represented at COP26.
I spent most of my time listening to negotiations on climate finance with my professor. We published a short opinion piece here on our observations. To summarize, in 2009, developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. This commitment has still not been delivered and there are differing numbers based on the fact that there is no established definition for what constitutes climate finance. In the negotiations we observed, countries were trying to figure out how to mobilize this $100 billion as soon as possible, how to define climate finance, and how to move forward. At the end, matters seemed unresolved and many action steps were just tabling disagreements to COP27. Still, it was so interesting to sit in on these negotiations and see international politics in real time.
If COP26 achieved anything, it was calling the world's attention to climate change. It was exciting to see how much the media and civil society cared about what was happening at the conference. This was reflected in the views that COP26 did not achieve enough in the headlines. Personally, I do not believe that a global treaty will completely mitigate the climate crisis. The problem is just too extensive. It requires work from many different levels. It was exciting to see Governor Ige sharing about Hawaiʻi's steps to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 on the state level. At the institutional level, I work in Swarthmore's Office of Sustainability where we are continuously working on reaching our climate neutrality goal of 2035. The hope is that through work at multiple levels, we will be able to create positive feedback loops to mitigate the worst of climate change and stop warming at 1.5 C. Though COP26 may have not brought complete optimism, I believe that it brought on a global awareness about the immense change that must be undertaken to ensure a future for humanity.
The Convention has near universal membership of 197 parties. The objective of the UNFCCC “is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development” (https://unfccc.int/about-us/about-the-secretariat). COP 26 took place in Glasgow, UK from October 31 to November 13, 2021. It was initially scheduled for November 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.