From selfies with famous figures to in-depth discussions about renewable energy finance, three students in the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Master of Public Administration (MPA) program participated in the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt, known as COP27.
MPA students Nick Hamp-Adams and Courtney Schneider attended COP27 as part of the Global Climate Change Science and Policy class and were part of a Cornell delegation coordinated by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, where they contributed ideas to a conference that included diplomats from nearly 200 nations.
Johanna Nyman, an executive master of public administration student, also participated in the conference. She led the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) delegation. AFI is a network of 83 central banks and financial regulators and Nyman leads AFI's Inclusive Green Finance workstream.
“What an incredible week at COP27,” Schneider said. “Through countless hours of listening and conversation, I met a diverse and incredible array of people from around the globe, all of whom are passionate about making a difference.”
Attending the first week of the conference, Hamp-Adams brought an international perspective to the proceedings. He is South African and interested in climate change adaptation, sustainable development and natural resource governance. Hamp-Adams has interned with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in its Adaptation Division and is a graduate teaching assistant in the Global Climate Change Science and Policy course.
As part of the delegation, Hamp-Adams offered daily updates on his activities, including meeting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. “I told him I was a master’s student at Cornell University and that South Africa needs to be a world climate leader.”
Hamp-Adams also moderated a press briefing featuring Cornell’s student delegates, reminding the attendees that “Science and research can inform decisions to assist communities and economies in rectifying damage caused by climate change.” He then reflected on the experience: “Presenting at the press conference on student engagement at COP27 was definitely a highlight of the day. I also attended an informative finance discussion at the UN Climate Change Pavilion hosted by the Citi Group. It was interesting to hear the insights and concerns. I do worry that we are not acting fast enough and at the scale needed to finance adaptation and mitigation in emerging markets.”
Schneider, who is also studying environmental policy, attended the second week of the conference. Originally from Utah, Schneider worked for Tesla for several years before enrolling in the MPA Program. She served as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow and is currently a project manager for the City of Ithaca’s Green New Deal program. This past spring, she was part of a group consulting project where she developed a report for the Peruvian government on the risks of microplastic pollution in their country, the ocean, and around the world. This fall, she conducted further group research on climate change and the ocean, analyzing the key topics for the first-ever Ocean Dialogue at COP27.
“Today was absolutely incredible from start to finish,” Schneider wrote in one update. “My first event of the day was a State Department briefing with U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry, where he gave an update on the state of the nation’s commitments and answered audience questions. I snagged a photo with him at the end. I attended a very interesting talk on nuclear and its role in the energy transition. Afterward, I connected with one of the speakers from the Nuclear Energy Agency and had a conversation about small modular reactors, nuclear fusion, and uranium mining.
Nyman, representing AFI, moderated a discussion on central banks and their role in green finance developments and organized a side event with central bank representatives on how financial inclusion can advance climate resilience and enable mitigation amongst households and micro, small and medium enterprises. She discussed her experiences at COP27 in The Sound of Economics, a podcast produced by Bruegel, a European economic think tank: “It filled me with hope to be at COP in the last weeks, to see all the different actors come together, actors that only five years ago would not have been involved in a meeting like this. Actors like commercial banks and central banks. We’re definitely not doing enough but I really feel there is hope because we’re mobilizing across all fronts at the moment.”
COP27 ended with a successful negotiation between the diplomats that resulted in the decision to establish a “loss and damage” fund to compensate vulnerable countries for damages caused by climate change.
It was a success, as well, for Nyman, Hamp-Adams and Schneider. “I’ve returned to the states with renewed optimism for the future and a clear vision of how I, together with individuals, particularly youth around the world, can tackle the climate crisis,” Schneider said. “The solutions may not be easy, but they do exist.”
Jim Hanchett is assistant dean of communications and marketing for the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.