Maui News

UH Law Students Head to Poland for Global Environmental Conference

December 11, 2018, 7:36 AM HST
* Updated December 10, 12:38 PM
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Four law students and two professors from the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law will participate in a global environmental meeting in Katowice, Poland this week.

The global meeting intends to create a rulebook countries can follow in order to address the current global climate crisis.

The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties will host about 10,000-13,000 representatives from nearly every country.

Specifically, this global cooperative effort is aimed at establishing rules to develop global monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions as stated in the Paris Agreement.

Third-year UH law students Miranda Steed, Stacey Gray, Tiana Winstead and Ryan McDermott will be joined by Environmental Law Professor Richard Wallsgrove and Associate Dean Denise Antolini.

Law students Gray, McDermott, Steed and Winstead, with Prof. Wallsgrove. PC: UH.

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The group representing Hawai‘i will participate in an intense series of international negotiations to create a framework grounded in transparency, accountability, and compliance that can mitigate and control the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

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“Solving the climate crisis is my generation’s challenge of a lifetime,” said Steed, who heads the UH student delegation. “For students to attend and participate is an amazing opportunity. This is a chance to learn, to drive new ideas, and to make our voices heard.”

The students organized their travel itinerary with the objective of neutralizing carbon emissions, even if that means having a brutal travel schedule. They finish exams Saturday morning, then catch a flight that begins 30 hours of travel with multiple stops, before arriving in the Czech Republic and then catching an overnight bus to Poland.

Immediately upon arriving in Poland, they will begin to participate in the U.N. climate summit’s second week.

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The trip was engineered by the students. Steed said she decided even before the semester began that it was important to go to Poland. The gathering is the three-year follow-up to the Paris Agreement of 2015, which mandated adoption of a Paris Agreement climate rulebook.

“The students proactively approached me at the start of the semester with this idea of attending the U.N. meeting. I pointed out how many hurdles they would need to overcome, including obtaining accreditation, scheduling around final exams, and finding enough funding to pay for their travel,” said Wallsgrove. “Meanwhile, they’ve had to learn the ins and outs of international environmental law and the U.N. climate agreement.”

“Nothing is impossible,” said Steed who proceeded to work with her classmates and Wallsgrove on the details, as well as with UH Campus Sustainability Coordinator Matt Lynch, who was able to have the students registered as UH’s delegation.

As part of the student’s efforts, UH has been admitted as an observer to the U.N. climate agreement.

Generous financial support has been donated by DeVries & Associates, a Honolulu law firm that works on real estate and business issues, and by the Environment, Energy and Resources Section of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, as well as by the law school itself.

“This opportunity is a testament to the students’ creativity and persistence,” said Wallsgrove. “They doggedly pursued every angle and made it work.”

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