UI students jet to Copenhagen for U.N. conference


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Holly Jones will live on coffee for the next few days.

The UI senior is preparing to jet off to Copenhagen, Denmark, where she will participate in Expedition Copenhagen, a program sponsored by the Will Steger Foundation.

The foundation chose one youth delegate from each Midwestern state to attend the U.N. conference, which will attract leaders from across the globe including President Obama.

“Some days I just kind of stop and think, ‘Wow,’ ” Jones said. “It is one of those things that you think about, and dream about, and then it actually happens.”

She will journey to Denmark on Thursday for the conference, which will run from Saturday through Dec. 18. While there, the delegates will write blogs and work on videos to share with students back home.

One of the biggest reasons she applied for the program, she said, was her desire to educate youth about the environment.

“We are letting the world leaders know that we’re youth, and we’re here, and we’re stepping up,” said Jones, who is majoring in history and geoscience, with an emphasis on environment studies.

The U.N. conference seeks to create international policy guidelines to help control emissions and fight global climate change. Part of the focus is on the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to lower greenhouse emissions. The protocol was created in 1997; it will run out in 2012.

Around 90 world leaders are expected to attend the conference. While the United States hasn’t signed on to Kyoto, Obama will personally commit the nation to greatly cutting greenhouse gases during his appearance on Dec. 9, according to the Associated Press.

Although Jones said she is disappointed by politicians’ decisions to back down from earlier assertions they would create a binding revision of Kyoto, she remains optimistic.

“Regardless, Copenhagen will still be a significant step,” she said. “There is a lot that still needs to be done, but it is manageable.”

During the second week of the conference, another group of Iowans will join Jones in Denmark. The Iowa United Nations Association will send 30 delegates to the conference, including UI students with funding from the university.

Andrea Niehaus, who graduated from the UI in 2005 and is currently codirector of the association, said the program will also focus on engaging citizens in Iowa.

As part of the application process, students were required to submit program proposals detailing how they would spread the word about the conference when they returned to the Hawkeye state.

Some plans include debates on policy organized by a UI law student or traditional PowerPoint presentations, said UI senior Ryan Drysdale.

“The whole issue of climate change is so complex, with so many different intricacies,” he said.
He will focus on global health issues, such as malaria and the accessibility of clean water, he said.

“People a lot of times just think global warming and icebergs and polar bears,” he said. “So many people don’t see the impact climate change can have on health.”

According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, damage from global climate change will continue to expand without significant policy changes.

“The science is in,” Jones said. “It’s been shown we are running out of time. We either get together and work to reduce carbon emissions, or we will have to face the consequences.”

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