Reporting on the COP-22 Climate Conference

From November 7-16, the world’s leading climate scientists, policymakers, and diplomats will descend on Marrakech, Morocco for COP22. This year’s conference hopes to build upon the momentum coming out of Paris following the landmark climate treaty.

Washington University in St. Louis students Teddy Sims (left) and Emre Günay (right) attended COP20 as research delegates through their university.
Washington University in St. Louis students Teddy Sims (left) and Emre Günay (right) attended COP20 as research delegates through their university.

Two years ago I was gearing up to attend COP20 in Lima, Peru, with Washington University in St. Louis as a research delegate. I traveled to Lima with an open mind and a willingness to listen and learn. In St. Louis, I looked at how climate change is going to impact the Mississippi River. My research project focused on the in-land effects of climate change, so I spoke with stakeholders, researchers, activists, and government officials about best practices. While most of the conversations were fruitful and engaging, one stood out.

The US delegation invited research delegates to an informal public diplomacy event. Here, diplomats gave an overview of their experience and thoughts on negotiations. I remember the poise the Foreign Service Officers had as they came under fire from various NGO representatives for not going far enough on issues of climate change.  At the conclusion of my time in Lima, I knew research was critical to overcoming the unique problem set posed by climate change. However, the work done in the private sector and universities is not enough; governments must play a central role.

While UN climate negotiations are a critical step, not every global citizen can travel to Lima or Paris or Marrakech. Instead, governments and the private sector need to find innovative ways to get the public engaged and focused on issues of climate change, wildlife trafficking and other environmental concerns. Here at the U.S. Embassy in London, we’re trying to do just that.

Combating Wildlife trafficking is an important priority for the U.S Government. The U.S. is seeking to engage all partner countries to ban the wanton killing of innocent animals for the sake of profit.  To educate youth and especially the tech community to together find solutions to combating wildlife trafficking, we hosted our first Zoo Hackathon with the Zoological Society of London. We were able to bring together over 75 participants for a conversation about wildlife trafficking to craft real-world solutions. Team Lookout won the competition among 16 excellent teams and a cash prize for creating a platform that requires no app downloading and informs travelers about illegal wildlife products while booking their trip via travel websites.

Coders hard at work at the Zoohackathon at ZSL London Zoo (Photo by Anne Gahart)
Coders hard at work at the Zoohackathon at ZSL London Zoo (Photo by Anne Gahart)

Events like the London Zoohackathon represent a continued State Department initiative to involve and inform people on a global scale about environmental issues, and challenge them to find innovative solutions to the problem. Team Lookout’s idea may seem small, but it represents a large shift in the conversation, to involve not only national governments and their representatives, but the average Londoner as well.

On November 16, 2016, the Marrakech summit will come to a close. The UNFCCC will start to take down the tents, and the delegates will return to capitals, universities, and cities across the globe. Let’s use this conference to start conversations and continue to find solutions to problems being faced by our communities across the planet.