Students return from COP21 climate change talks

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Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University students James Guo and Mia Oenato (pictured below), who were delegates at the recent COP21 climate change talks in Paris, have returned to the XJTLU campus and have offered their assessments of the talks.

“My feelings are a little mixed, even though the agreement was passed,” said James, who studies environmental science.

“There are too many unstable factors. However, let's be optimistic. The Paris agreement actually can be regarded as a milestone for climate change negotiation in the last several years.”

Mia Oenato is also from the Department of Environmental Science, and she, too, views the talks as a success: “The new agreement is satisfying enough. It has reached a level of equality, gender balance and legally binding universality, but most importantly it has directed its attention to human rights and climate justice,” she said.

Both students spoke about how the talks broadened their understanding of high-level international negotiations, and how they enjoyed visiting the city of Paris despite security concerns over the terrorist attacks that took place there in November.

The full COP21 agreement outlines the commitment of the 195 signatory nations that they will cut greenhouse emissions to keep the rise in the global average temperature to below 2℃C (3.6 F) – the point at which climate change could seriously threaten life on Earth.

Despite the signing of the agreement, there remain questions to be answered, as James explained: “Whether the US congress will pass the agreement after Obama finishes his presidency; whether China and India will stick to their five-year evaluations; whether the Green Climate Fund can really save the island countries and other at-risk countries since the 30 billion dollars, which the US has promised to subsidise, is not currently available. All these things remain to be seen.”

Despite similar concerns, Mia described witnessing the signing of the agreement as “the best thing in her life so far.”

“The airplane trip was definitely tiring, however it was all worth it, and I'm grateful for our university's support,” she said.

“The trip was amazing. I met some international delegates when I arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport as well as so many amazing people at COP21 such as Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, President Xi Jinping, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and many other smart, hard-working and professional negotiators from all around the world.”

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