U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a Congressional delegation visited a group of Cornell students at the U.N.’s COP25 meeting in Madrid on Dec. 3. From left, Rep. Sean Casten, D-Illinois; Noah Schulman ’20; Sanjana Sidhra, M.A. ’20; Christopher Dunn, director of Cornell Botanic Garden; Allison Chatrchyan, senior research associate; Read Barbee ’20; Pamela Wildstein ’20; Daryna Kulaha, M.P.A. ’20; Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Christopher Galantino, M.Eng. ’19; Alice Soewito ’21; Willie Freeman ’20; Sauvanithi Yupho, M.A. 20; Katherine Long, M.P.A. ’20; and Khyati Rathore ’19.

Pelosi meets Cornell students at UN climate change meeting

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and about a dozen other Democratic members of a U.S. Congressional delegation visited with the Cornell students at the 25th annual United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP25) climate change conference, Dec. 3 in Madrid, Spain.

There are 18 students from the Global Climate Change Science and Policy class attending the two-week international conference. The Cornell students are leading partner projects with the governments of Armenia, Zambia and Tonga, as well as The World Bank, Carbon 180, and the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture.

Noah Schulman ’20, left, and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-California, discuss drilling off the California coast.

The course is taught by Natalie Mahowald, the Irving Porter Church Professor in Engineering, and Allison Chatrchyan, senior research associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“I appreciated that Speaker Pelosi took the time to meet with us at COP25,” said Pamela Wildstein ’20, who noted that the U.S. has a very small presence at the conference. “She thanked us for our effort [on taking action against climate change], and it was nice to see that she values youth engagement. … Her presence really reminds us that ‘we are still in’ and that part of our government is still committed to climate action.”

Engineering master’s student Christopher Galantino explained that Pelosi, a California Democrat, is among the majority of people willing to face climate challenges.

“She understands that climate change concerns people across generations and many walks of life,” he said.

When Pelosi and the congressional delegation visited Cornell’s exhibit at the conference, Chatrchyan introduced the students to the congressional group and then outlined the student projects.

“In our class,” she said afterward, “we teach about the importance of sub-national and non-state climate change action. Today’s congressional visit of representatives from various states was illustrative of the power of states and all branches of government remaining involved.”

The students also met other representatives. Pamela Wildstein ’20 spoke with Rep. Sean Casten, D-Illinois, on federal energy policy and topics related to her senior honors thesis on wholesale electricity markets.

“I was excited to learn that he worked in the electricity sector before running for Congress,” she said. “It was important for me to meet a representative who is not only engaged in the energy sector and follows it closely, but also has expertise.

Allison Chatrchyan, left, senior research associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, tells Speaker Nancy Pelosi about Cornell students’ climate change projects around the world.

“It gives me hope we will see more collaboration between the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the legislative branch to speed up the transition to a 100% clean energy grid,” Wildstein said.

Noah Schulman ’20 connected with Rep. Jared Huffman, D-California, on prohibiting further drilling off the California coast and the importance of U.S. representation at international climate change events.

Alice Soewito ’21 said she was humbled by the congressional participation at COP25, where international policymakers are meeting to negotiate the means of implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Funding for the trip to Spain was provided by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and by an Engaged Cornell curriculum grant through the Office of Engagement Initiatives.

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Abby Butler