November 16, 2000

Cornell Greens Will Travel to the Netherlands

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Seven students from the environmental activist group Cornell Greens will be traveling to The Hague, Netherlands to participate in the Sixth Session Conference of the Parties (COP 6) next week.

The conference, sponsored by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which resulted in the drafting of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

According to Prof. Jeffrey Rachlinski, environmental law, “At Kyoto, forty odd countries agreed to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to target levels with 1990 as the baseline.”

The reduction of carbon dioxide has become an central point of debate for the UNFCCC.

“Every year there is more and more evidence that there is a change in climate due to human emissions of certain gases including carbon dioxide,” said Prof. Kerry Cook, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

In hopes that “the perspective of concerned students [will be] infused into the negotiations,” said Greens President Julie Baribeau ’02, she will leave for the Netherlands Friday morning, along with Dana Perls ’02, Frankie Lind ’01, Tracy Wise ’03, Emily Citanek ’04, and Jesse Strock ’02. The group is part of 230 American college students sponsored by Cool the Planet, a subgroup of Greenpeace, who will have access to the COP 6 events.

“It’s important as students to be going, because this [the responsibility for environmental upkeep] is eventually going to be falling on our shoulders,” Perls said. “If we don’t know what sort of talks are going on and … the issues from the non-environmental point of view, then we’re going to have to start all over again once this generation of politicians retires.”

The students plan on observing the negotiations, pressuring the U.S. to support the Protocol, shadowing lobbyists, and bringing positive press to the conference.

“We’ve been focusing on this issue the whole semester, trying to get the point across on campus,” Baribeau said.

Efforts include a letter-writing campaign to Frank Loy, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, to “demand that the United States take the lead in stopping global warming, rather than undermining the Kyoto Protocol’s environmental integrity.”

The Cornell Greens have also launched a campus-based “Kyoto Now” campaign.

“Kyoto Now involves recognizing the tremendous ecological footprints that Cornell has,” said Frankie Lind ’01.

He cited such trouble areas as emissions by the partially Cornell-owned TCAT, the sometimes wasteful mass use of electricity on campus, and the lack of “green architecture” — that is, energy-efficient buildings that avoid excessive heat or air conditioning costs.

The attendees hope that their presence at COP 6 will bring publicity to their efforts back here in Ithaca.

“I’ve been calling President Rawlings for about two months to try and set up a meeting. He’s scared of the issue, it appears. I’d like to know why,” Wise said.

This is the first year that students will be participating in one of the UNFCCC’s meetings.

Baribeau hopes that their presence “brings a new energy into the whole thing.”

“For a lot of environmental groups this is the last straw,” she added. “If the treaty becomes so weak that it doesn’t mean anything anymore, a lot of people are going to back out.”

The attendees noted the student body’s apathy toward the issue, suggesting it stems from a misunderstanding of the scientific background for global climate change.

“For example,” said Cook, “I can say to a person on the street, ‘do you know if we double this carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that we’ll increase the globally average surface air temperature by three degrees Celsius and they can say, ‘so what’?”

Archived article by April Sommer