Since 2009, Stabinsky has been taking a group of students to the international Conference of the Parties (COP) that takes place annually under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This December, she will again make the journey, traveling with 17 COA students to the COP21 in Paris. At the Human Ecology Forum Sept. 15, Stabinsky outlined the roles her students would play.

The COP 21 is a big deal in the climate negotiations world. At the conference, a new legal instrument will be crafted that will bring both developed and developing countries under the same framework of obligations to reduce emission levels. 

Some of the best informed youth

Throughout the term, students traveling to the conference will learn about the history of the UNFCCC, obtain an understanding the key political issues, and gain understanding of politics that most youth do not have, Stabinsky said.

Through the history of their COP participation, COA students have become key players in translating information from inside the conference space to others that are not attending or do not know much about the UN negotiations. This experience is a leadership experience of translating, interacting, teaching others, and being part of pedagogy and practice, Stabinsky said. The youth perspective that COA students can provide is especially important because these negotiations will ultimately affect younger generations.

COA students have made such a big impact in this space that the collective environmental group they are part of, known as  [Earth], has developed a reputation in these negotiations. Although Stabinsky is not directly involved with the work of [Earth], she provides the students with tools and resources to create a cross-cultural space that transfers information, she said.

Inside and outside the conference

Unfortunately, she said, only three badges were accredited to COA’s delegation, meaning only six students will be able to enter the negotiation space. However, there are plenty of activities happening outside the negotiations.

With this level of preparation, Stabinsky said,  “COA students end up being some of the best informed youth in the negotiations.”

Before COP21 starts, there is a Conference of the Youth in which students will attend workshops and give presentations to other youths from around the world. During the COP, there will be a space outside dedicated to civil society, which many climate change leaders, such as Naomi Klein, are known to attend. There are also events that invite everyone to attend, such as the ArtCOP21, which hopes to “address climate as a people challenge and work to create a cultural blueprint of positive and sustainable change.” Coalition Climate 21 plans to have a mass mobilization march, like last year’s People’s Climate March in NYC, to send a message to global leaders that civil society is aware of their lack of ambition. With all of these events happening, Stabinsky said, students will be more than busy during their time in Paris.

And then, Sweden

After three weeks in Paris, the students will fly to Uppsala University in Sweden. Here, COA students will collaborate with the delegation from Uppsala and debrief about the outcome of the negotiations in Paris. Using the momentum brought by the mobilizations, Stabinsky hopes to catch her students in a state that will motivate them to brainstorm ideas of what should happen after Paris to continue fighting against climate change, she said. They will discuss what the role of students and other young people are to continue the fight. They will discuss how change happens and they will ask, if the UN institution is not the place where change is happening, what is? This part of the course is especially important because these youths are the ones who decides what it takes to make a more sustainable future, Stabinsky said.

Stabinsky ended her presentation with a quote from Roberto Unger, “At every level, the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination of what could be different.” Stabinsky will be working from Uppsala until November, when the Conference of the Youth will begin in Paris.