UA Delegation to Attend Climate Conference
A diverse group of faculty, researchers and students will participate in a highly anticipated international gathering in Paris.

By Eric Magrane, UA Institute of the Environment
Nov. 24, 2015


The Sierra student coalition COP20 delegation in Peru in 2014
The Sierra student coalition COP20 delegation in Peru in 2014 (Photo courtesy of Natalie Lucas)

A delegation of University of Arizona researchers and a coalition of students from around the country will travel to Paris to participate in a highly anticipated United Nations conference on climate change.

The two groups, with funding support by the UA's Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, will attend the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21, which will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

The COP is an annual climate meeting under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that brings together representatives of governments, companies and charities from around the globe to set goals and agreements that address climate change. President Barack Obama is one of the many world leaders scheduled to take part in the conference.

"We knew the risks back in the 1970s and we’re still at a point where we don’t have a key agreement on climate and on development," said Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment and a veteran of six previous COPs who will attend COP21. "We're hoping that Paris will be successful."

Liverman, a Regents’ Professor of Geography and Development and expert on climate change policy, noted that the level of voluntary commitment to emission reductions going into the conference is greater than ever. This, along with the public impact of recent high-profile news such as Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, has garnered hope for climate negotiators and activists, who also will be at the conference.

Liverman is leading the UA delegation, which includes faculty members Don Falk and Valerie Trouet and graduate students Sonya Ziaja, America Lutz Ley and Miriam Gay-Antaki. Representing both the social and natural sciences, the researchers will attend meetings, interview global leaders on climate policy, network, and help share the UA’s knowledge and research on climate with other attendees.

"As an ecologist, I am very aware of the likely adverse impacts of global change on the ecosystems we all depend on and treasure," said Falk, an associate professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. "The Paris summit looks like our best chance to start bending the curve toward conditions that will give both terrestrial and marine ecosystems a chance to survive the next century."

Gay-Antaki, a doctoral student in geography, studies the effects of climate change on women, particularly in Mexico.

"In many cases, women have been, are and will be more vulnerable to climate changes because of gender roles and social relations that position women in disadvantaged positions compared to men," she said.

While attending last year’s COP20 in Peru, Gay-Antaki became a member of the gender and women's caucus and had the opportunity to interview many leaders in gender and climate change. During COP21, Gay-Antaki will interview several delegations to help her understand how climate policy is shaped and what role gender has in climate negotiations.

Vince Pawlowski, a student of the UA's connecting environmental science and decision-making certificate program, and Kimi Eisele, a Tucson artist active in the Institute of the Environment's Arts and Environment Network, also will attend the talks.

A second group heading to the conference is a coalition of undergraduate and graduate students from different colleges and universities who are part of an initiative funded by the Haury program and organized by Natalie Lucas, a 2015 UA alumna. Collaborating with the Sierra Club and SustainUS, Lucas has visited nine states and given 17 "Roadtrip to Paris" presentations this fall to raise awareness about climate change and the COP.

"Because of the Haury program, seven students from historically black colleges and universities, Mexico, Kentucky coal regions, the Gulf Coast, and New York coastal regions will be attending the COP," Lucas said. "This will be an opportunity for these students to share their stories and demand climate justice for the communities that they represent."

Anna Spitz, director of the Haury program, said that Lucas' project exemplifies many goals of the Haury program by providing the framework for more diverse voices to be heard on climate change.

Reflecting on her travels around the country this fall, Lucas has been inspired by many community responses to climate change.

"Cities have clean energy programs, clean vehicle programs, green building programs and climate resiliency plans," she said. "Individuals are getting involved with these initiatives, greening up their own lives, or are working in their own neighborhoods to develop ideas on how they can work together to improve food security, carpool and help one another use less overall."

Connecting local responses to global responses to climate change has been one of the goals of her trip.

"Paris is a big deal this year, but many people do not know what it is, why it is important or how they can get involved," Lucas said. "I wanted to help inspire people to act locally and show them how they fit into the global conversation."

Extra info

Members of the delegation also will also report on the conference over social media.

Natalie Lucas will blog at

Valerie Trouet will tweet at: @epispheric



Resources for the media

Stephanie Doster

UA Institute of the Environment