10/29/09

Moravian to Act as "Civil Society Observer"
at World Meeting on Climate Change

Undergraduate research projects, such as the ongoing revitalization work at Lehigh Gap Superfund site (above), may have helped Moravian qualify to act as a Civil Society Observer at the upcoming global conference on climate change.

A delegation of eighteen to twenty Moravian College faculty members, students, and alumni will attend the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, December 7-18.

Moravian is one of only six private liberal arts or predominantly undergraduate institutions in the U.S. selected to serve as a "civil society observer." (The other colleges are College of the Atlantic, Hobart and William Smith, Ithaca College, Dickinson, and Pomona.) To qualify as a civil society observer, an organization must demonstrate an ability to contribute working knowledge to the conference.

Hilde Binford, associate professor of music, and Diane Husic, professor and chair of biological sciences, who co-teach "Climate Crises: Past, Present, Future," applied for the observer position on behalf of Moravian, with assistance from Sue Schamberger, director of foundation relations.

"I believe we were selected partly based on the strength of our academic coursework and undergraduate research related to environmental science," said Professor Binford. "Dr. Husic's research work with students at the Palmerton zinc Superfund site is internationally recognized." Other factors in Moravian's favor include its many community partnerships and its proposal to use the observer status to engage and educate both the campus and broader community.

Moravian's environmental studies degree program was launched in 2004, under Frank Kuserk, professor of biological sciences, director of the environmental studies program, and chair of the Sustainability Committee. The "Climate Crises" class taught by Professors Binford and Husic is an interdisciplinary course.

Professors Binford and Husic, as well as Eva Leeds, associate professor of economics and business, will attend the conference, along with five or six students and eight or nine alumni. Students can earn 1/2 unit of credit if they enroll in the travel abroad course "COP 15: Negotiating our Climate Future." (Attendees must cover their own travel expenses.)

Delegates will have the opportunity to participate first-hand in what could be history-making agreements on the reduction of greenhouse gases; in the creation of international collaborations that lead to innovative clean and sustainable technologies; and in conversations that will consider issues of environmental justice. These events will also be shared with the campus community as they happen through a blog.

Kerri M. Mullen, adjunct instructor of environmental studies (left above), holds pages of the Faculty Declaration supporting a 350 ppm CO2 limit. She joined a group who participated in 350.org's International Day of Climate Action on October 24.

Moravian has demonstrated strong support for a Copenhagen climate treaty to reduce greenhouse gases. Thirty-six Moravian faculty members and administrators (more than at any other local college) signed the "Faculty Declaration in Support of a 350 PPM Limit for CO2 in the Atmosphere" circulated by the Alliance for Sustainable Communities, Lehigh Valley. The declaration will be submitted to the Copenhagen meeting by 350.org, a global network of more than 200 organizations.

Participation in UNFCCC is restricted to parties of the conference, observer states, admitted observer organizations, and accredited press/media. The sessions are not open to the public. The meeting is the fifteenth U.N. Conference of the Parties (COP 15) on climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, which set basic guidelines for reducing greenhouse emissions, is set to expire in 2012. World leaders have called for a comprehensive, ambitious, and fair international climate change deal to be clinched at the upcoming conference.