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Professors from BC’s COP27 Delegation Explore the Conference’s Impact on Environmental Change

COP27 provided attendees with the opportunity to share their perspectives on climate change issues with global leaders, according to María Fernanda Piñeros-Leaño, an assistant professor in the Boston College School of Social Work and one of the University’s conference delegates.

 “COP27 has contributed a space where heads of state get to meet with its population, with people that are really interested in change,” Piñeros-Leaño said. “I don’t think that, unless these spaces were provided, people would be able to have these conversations, almost one-on-one.”

BC sent a delegation of faculty and students to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt last November for COP27—the 27th annual United Nations climate change conference. Several of these professors shared their experiences in a discussion led by Tara Pisani Gareau, director of the environmental studies program, on Monday.

David Deese, a political science professor and COP27 delegate, said the annual conferences hold participating countries publicly accountable for what they have done to respond to climate change since the previous meeting. 

 “The COPs, I think, are not as useful in the kind of intergovernmental agreement space as they are in pressing nations to announce in advance to their own home audience, what they’re going to do, and why they’re going to be there,” Deese said. 

 Deese also said that compared to COP26—which was held in Glasgow, Scotland—COP27 featured more discussions specifically dedicated to themes such as climate migration, environmental justice, and global health.

 “Compared with Glasgow, it was substantial, in terms of the new emphases,” Deese said. “We were really impressed with the voice that was given to youth and future generations, and I think it has grown over time.”

 Dunwei Wang, a professor of chemistry and the Margaret A. and Thomas A. ’53 Vanderslice Chair in chemistry, later said future COP conferences should further foster the development of green technology. 

“You have to make very difficult decisions, simply because new technology—renewable, green solutions—are not making economic sense, yet people have easy access to the dirty technologies,” Wang said. “I think the governments still need to put out more resources to encourage R&D to make this technology more accessible and make economic sense.”

 Lacee Satcher, an assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies and COP27 delegate, also spoke on how less-developed nations are generally less economically capable of adopting clean, renewable energy compared to their more developed counterparts. 

 “Delegates and representatives from less-developed nations were being really critical of the West and [its] role in COP27 and the climate crisis,” Satcher said. “There was a lot of talk about this pressure on less-developed nations to take on this adaptation and mitigation, to let go of the fossil fuels they relied on, without giving a thought to the fact that, in terms of their economy, they are really dependent on that.”

 According to Wang, the conference overall provided him with a diverse, global perspective on the issue of climate change. 

 “I think it really reminds you how diverse, how big the world is,” Wang said. “In our narratives, we are so overwhelmed by social media and Eurocentric views that we tend to forget how big the entire globe is.”

 The panel concluded by analyzing the significance of the University’s representation at COP27, with Wang specifically pointing out the conference’s alignment with the University’s values as a Jesuit institution. 

 “A Jesuit institution strives for a common good,” Wang said. “This is one of the really important common good topics. If BC were not participating, we’re going to miss out on a lot. The educational value of this is immeasurable, and as a faculty member, the takeaway is very strong.”

March 21, 2023