Eight lucky students to go to Paris climate conference

The students who are going to COP21

05 November 2015

Eight undergraduate students have been selected for the opportunity of a lifetime; attending a UN climate change conference in Paris.

Celia Iordache, Alexia Petricu, Xiaoyu Chen, Victoria Wood, Veronika Wiesner, Jan-Oliver Distler, Ferdinand Weiler and Miriam Luft — all students on the Management and the Natural Environment: Ethics and Sustainability module —  were selected to attend the event, named COP21, after completing a written assignment answering the question, "How significant might COP21 be in ameliorating climate change?"

They will be heading off to Paris on 5th December to join hundreds of business leaders at the event, which takes place from 7th-9th December. They will have access to meetings where even the media are not allowed. Away from the prying eyes of the press, CEOs and other public figures can talk freely.

As well as helping with the organisation of the event, the students will also be tasked with taking minutes and will have the opportunity to meet and network with influential figures.

The invitation to attend the event was extended by World Business Council for Sustainable Development CEO Peter Bakker after he spoke to Gail Whiteman, part-time Professor in Residence at the WBCSD and director of Lancaster's Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business.

The eight students are now preparing for their trip. 

Alexia Petricu says that her reasons for wanting to go were ethical, adding: "The thought of participating in a conference where more than 190 countries will try to come up with an ambitious legally-binding universal agreement is absolutely exciting. 

"Moreover, I wanted to have the chance to represent my University and maybe be an example for many other students.  

"I am interested in understanding how so many delegates from different governments, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies (etc.) will try to build a durable effort to solve a global issue. I am really interested in understanding their different views, reasons and the way they will try to reach a consensus."

 Fellow student Ferdinand Weiler is interested in clean energy and is hoping to get some ideas out of the conference.

"I want to be inspired and I want to pressure the politicians into making the right decisions," he says.

"One of the most important factors is that being sustainable doesn't mean you can't gain profit.

"The difference between a company and an NGO is that NGOs are not supposed to make a profit and reinvest, but a company can do that.

"I think it's important that everyone has their eyes on Paris."

Meanwhile, Veronika Wiesner is interested in finding out “how the decision is getting made. What are the stakeholders fighting for?” and Miriam Luft explains that: "What I expect to do is to get a better feeling for what companies can do to help save our environment."

Celia Iordache, who is a member of Green Lancaster, adds: "Normally, when we talk about sustainability, we get the theoretical part or the business part.

"Here, we can get the chance to see how they put all their ideas on the table and work towards something that can be delivered in the real world."

For some, such as Jan-Oliver Distler who is involved in the Model UN, the trip will be a continuation of a long interest in politics.

Others, such as Australian student Victoria Wood who previously worked for an energy company, are interested in what companies can do.

"Seeing how businesses can change is incredible. What companies need to do to change their profits," she says.

However, she adds: "It's going to be a slow process to change. So many companies are centred on fossil fuels and gas."

Writing in her blog, Xiaoyu Chen wrote that she believes that: There is no doubt that we are influenced by businesses directly, as we consume what they produce and our lifestyles then alter alongside their R&D improvements and vice versa. We do not expect a winner-loser situation, but an inter-beneficial win-win outcome.

"By listening to the first-hand knowledge from the business leaders in WBCSD, I strongly believe that we will re-think our consumption concepts from a new angle. And by knowing business’s perceptions and enthusiasm about climate change, it would also be easier for the public to predict and proceed further steps of ameliorating climate change.”

The group needs to raise £5,730 to fund the trip and are offering various incentives to donate. To make a donation, go to the crowdfunding webpage.

They will be tweeting about their experiences in Paris using the hashtag #LancUniatCOP21.