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 "COP is a life-changing opportunity, and even though it has been one week since I am back, I am still digesting what happened there and the importance of that conference," expressed Andi Mujollari, a second-year student in Sanford's Master of International Development Policy program. 

Four Sanford graduate students attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference this past week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This was the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), more commonly referred to as “COP27," a 12-day conference that started on November 6. Delegates from 190 countries, including 90 heads of state, met to discuss solutions to global climate change problems. 

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Students in front of COP 27 sign outdoors
Jide Olutoke MPP’23 (far left) and Andi Mujollari MIDP’23 (middle right).

Second-year Master of Public Policy students Yori Hook, Jide Olutoke and Jacob Wilentz attended with Mujollari to witness the global events. 

Olutoke shared some of his thoughts on his first UN climate conference. 

“This was my first COP, I am a climate optimist, and even though we are already late to stop the effects of climate change, the commitment and the sense of urgency I saw in COP shows that everyone, including countries, NGOs, and the private sector is ready to contribute their quota.”
 
That global commitment was reflected in student attendance, as Olutoke elaborates. “I met student delegates from other universities in the United States and other countries, including students from Yale, MIT, Appalachian State, Vermont, and other countries such as South Africa, Indonesia, and Nigeria.”

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Three men standing in front of street outside of conference hall.
Jacob, Jide, and Andi on the streets outside of COP 27.

Hook was also encouraged by the future of climate leadership. 

"I was pleasantly surprised by how many students I was able to meet and connect with during my week at COP. There’s a strong presence of young researchers, policy practitioners and advocates who are not only there to observe but also to work and engage in the climate negotiation process. It’s fun to connect with these young people and realize that there’s a good chance I’ll continue to work with them throughout my career," said Hook. 

Mujollari continued the theme of connection and the importance of international cooperation in climate change. 

"I have met a couple of students there, but what is more important is that I expanded my professional network with very important people in the policy-making field. From meeting presidents to CEOs of different companies, NGOs, development banks, etc.," he explained.

As the conference ended last week, it finished with a historic announcement. The UN members decided to create the first-ever "loss and damage" fund for countries most vulnerable to climate change's effects. 

"I was surprised by this announcement, but as you can see, COP can surprise you," said Mujollari. 

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Climate Change Solutions

Sanford's Ways & Means podcast is focused on climate topics this year. From exploring economics can help slow deforestation and combat the climate crisis to how to get the best bang for our buck when it comes to solar incentives. The episodes are surprising and hopeful.

Listen to Ways & Means wherever you get your podcasts

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