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Pomona College Group Heads to UN Climate Change Conference as Official Observers

Dawn Bickett '10, Grace Vermeer '10, and Politics Professor Rick Worthington.

Dawn Bickett '10, Grace Vermeer '10, and Politics Professor Rick Worthington

On day one of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, attendee Grace Vermeer ’10 has already been seen groups protesting at the metro stations, “run across more than a few important party members,” and wandered through some of the hundreds of booths set up for organizations such as Climate Action Network International, Federation of Young European Greens, Wetlands International and Tropical Forest Group.

During the conference, which runs December 7 through 18, officials from around the world are working on a global climate change agreement that would begin when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. President Barack Obama will travel to COP15 on December 9.

Vermeer, who is blogging about her experience at COP15 on Pomona’s Environmental Analysis Program Web site, is attending the international meeting with a Pomona College group headed by Professor of Politics Richard Worthington. Also attending are Dawn Bickett PO ‘10; Elizabeth DeGori, Scripps ‘10; and Saskia Versteeg and Joshua Brumett, from the University of Texas at Dallas. The contingent was granted observer status as a research, non-governmental organization.

Worthington served as the U.S. coordinator of World Wide Views on Global Warming, a global discussion among ordinary citizens in 44 sites in 38 nations on climate change issues and foreign policy that involved approximately 4,000 people. Both Vermeer and Bickett worked with Worthington to coordinate the WWViews activities in the United States, including hosting the greater Los Angeles meeting at Pomona College on September 26.

While attending COP15, the Pomona group is researching awareness among attendees of the WWViews results, bringing the results to the attention of attendees, and determining what value they see in such deliberative exercises and their views on how to improve them, explained Worthington.

“The results [from WWViews] were surprising and should prove informative to world leaders,” says Worthington. “Among them, people from diverse backgrounds in the United States and worldwide overwhelmingly wanted faster action, deeper GHG emissions cuts and stronger enforcement than either U.S. climate legislation proposals or Copenhagen treaty conference preparations are currently contemplating.”

Findings showed that 90 percent of U.S. participants said it is urgent to reach a tough new agreement at COP15 and not punt to subsequent meetings; and 89 percent said by 2020, emissions should be cut 25-40 percent below 1990 levels. Additionally, 74 percent of participants globally and 69 percent in the U.S. said fossil fuel prices should increase in developed countries. The full results, from the U.S. and globally, were presented to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality in late November.

Following COP15, Worthington and his group will continue to study the processes and outcomes of WWViews, as well as the key questions what role can ordinary citizens play in analyzing policies through deliberative exercises like WWViews, and, more importantly and much more challenging, according to Worthington, how can their voices be incorporated into policy making. A book of readings on WWViews will be published in May of next year with contributions from WWViews project managers from around the world. The team’s work is being funded by the National Science Foundation.