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As a 20-year-old, UMass Lowell student, Madison Feudo questioned whether she could alter the course of the climate crisis. But the Hampton, New Hampshire resident’s participation in the United Nations climate summit last month in Egypt challenged that notion.
“I’m going to go back to Lowell, and I’m going to do what I can to make a difference,” Feudo said of her time in Sharm El Sheikh for the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP27.
Feudo is a peace and conflict studies major who attended the 14-day conference for a week. Also traveling to Egypt for the event were fellow students Riva Chatsman, a business administration major from North Andover, Massachusetts, and Tyler Harrington, a doctoral candidate in earth system science from Somerville, Massachusetts. Joining them were UMass Lowell faculty experts in climate science, security studies, and civil and environmental engineering.
The six sent by UMass Lowell were the only delegation from a public university in Massachusetts to attend the conference. The students’ trip was funded by UMass Lowell’s Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy.
“The students and faculty had the wonderful opportunity to be official observers at COP27,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen. “They gained a further understanding of what we need to do as citizens, as universities and as nations to move in the right direction.”
Representatives of nearly 200 countries participated in COP27, sharing their environmental action strategies and goals while negotiating the next steps in mitigating the changing climate’s effects.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry were among the international leaders attending the conference. Biden spoke about the Inflation Reduction Act that he signed into law in August, calling the legislative package “the biggest, most important climate bill in the history of our country.”
“It was really nice to hear the president speak about the timeline of that bill and what change it’s going to make,” Feudo said.
UMass Lowell Professor Juliette Rooney-Varga, a climate science expert who leads the university’s Climate Change Initiative, presented her research during the summit. In preparing for the event, she told the students “COP is like 1,000 conferences in one.”
Chatsman, who has a minor in climate change and sustainability, didn’t understand the full scope of what Rooney-Varga meant until she arrived at the summit.
“It was overwhelming at first. There’s just so much to learn. There are people from every corner of the world to provide a different perspective on their experience with climate change,” she said.
Harrington spent much of his time at COP27 listening to negotiations between the nearly 200 countries that make up the United Nations as they worked toward a final agreement that spelled out their next steps in combating climate change.
“Developing nations argued they haven’t contributed that much to greenhouse gas emissions, but they’re feeling the effects from it, and so think developed countries should provide financial compensation to help mitigate those damages,” he said.
For Rooney-Varga, a major highlight of COP27 was seeing the students immersed in the climate summit and motivated by it to make changes at home to help protect the environment.
“They were just wide-eyed and soaking it all in. That was a gift for me to see,” she said.
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