College of Engineering associate professor, Franco Montalto, Ph.D., was one of eight Drexel University representatives to attend the annual Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France. This year’s COP21 was unique in that for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the goal was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C or potentially 1.5.
Drexel University was given observer status for the first time as an institution this year. The eight Drexel University participants to attend COP21 represented multiple colleges and units, and in addition to Montalto, included: Bob Brulle (CoAS), Carol Collier (Academy of Natural Sciences), Erin Graham (CoAS), Longjian Liu (Dornsife School of Public Health) and staff members, Hugh Johnson (A.J. Drexel Institute for Energy and the Environment), Adam Zahn (International Programs), and a graduate student, Paul Sesink Clee.
Observers were granted access to the restricted “Blue Zone” of this globally significant meeting, where they had an opportunity to watch and participate, at a limited level, the negotiations that will hopefully lead to global agreement on the control of climate change. Drexel representatives frequented the Climate Generation Zone, where members of the public were allowed to interact with many researchers, government decision-makers, NGOs, and other members of civil societies from around the world. In addition, Montalto met former Vice President Al Gore twice, and was also able to ask a direct question to the newly-elected chair of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at a press conference. He was present when President Obama addressed a crowd of 40,000 attendees and also attended presentations from many world climate change leaders including Jim Hansen, Jeff Sachs, and former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The United Nations website states that the first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. Significant meetings since then have included: COP3, where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted; COP11, where the Montreal Action Plan was produced; COP15 in Copenhagen, where an agreement regarding the Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realized; and COP17 in Durban, where the Green Climate Fund was created.