Southern's climate leaders join this year's COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt as a representative of CSCU.

For nearly three decades, the United Nations has been bringing together almost every country on Earth for global climate summits – called COPs, or “Conference of the Parties.” In that time, climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year is the 27th annual summit, thus its name: COP27. 

Southern applied to be a COP member with observer status in 2020. Two to three thousand organizations across industries have been applying from all over the world, but Southern has obtained access as a RINGO (Research and Independent Non-Government Organization), among just 300 other universities from around the world. Southern represents Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. Yale and UConn also attend.

For the first time, Southern students actively participate in COP

Southern students actively participate for the first time in 2022

Two faculty and two students in front of a large geographic map
From left to right: Caitlin McLaughlin, Miriah Kelly, Gregory Rodriguez, and Erin Heidkamp

Southern is sending a group of climate leaders to participate in this year’s COP27 because we are at a pivotal moment in time where climate issues are creating massive social and ecological impacts around the world. Globally, there is mounting pressure for governments to act on climate change, and these negotiations are key to framing the agreements and commitments that are made.

This year's delegation includes Miriah Kelly, assistant professor, Environment, Geography, and Marine Sciences; Erin Heidkamp, director of international education, and graduate students Gregory Rodriguez, ’19, M.S. ’22 and Caitlin McLaughlin, ’22, M.S. ’24,

Learn more about this year's delegation.

This year, Kelly says her team aims to take an even more active role at COP27, including having Rodriguez and McLaughlin read impact statements at several of the conference’s key moments.

In future years, Southern’s COP delegation wishes to make the trip more accessible to the campus community, which includes supporting students who don’t have the resources to travel to the conference.

Owls4Earth: Dispatches From COP 27


About being a delegate

Each delegate approaches the event with their own individual goals -- whether that is to conduct research, educate themselves, create new collaborations, identify resources for students, advocate for action, etc. -- but they are also going with the collective goal of serving as the voice of the institution in this global discussion. As the delegation for their constituency, they are dedicated to ensuring that the collective interests of our campus community, and the communities we participate in beyond our institution, are represented and heard.

Participating in these global negotiations is key to providing leadership opportunities for our students, and for connecting our communities here in Connecticut to the bigger global context of climate change. 

After COP26, a new program titled “Owls 4 Earth: Observers and Participants of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” will engage CSCU students, faculty, and staff in the UNFCCC  process, and will use SCSU’s official Observer organization status as a foundation for climate change research, education, and outreach in our state and beyond.

Questions for Delegates

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